About 80 percent of the Vietnamese population is expected to join health insurance by 2020, according to a newly ratified Government plan.

It is estimated that nearly 68 percent of the national population owned the health insurance cards by December 2012, said Le Van Kham, deputy head of the Health Ministry’s Insurance Department.

Under the plan to provide universal health coverage, insurance cards will be distributed to farmers and rural workers who often do not purchase health insurance as well as other needy groups.

The Government will subsidise 100 percent of the premium for households living in underprivileged areas in mountainous provinces, where poorer households in rural areas earn an average income of 401,000-520,000 VND (19-25 USD) per month.

Students will receive a 50 percent discount.

According to Kham, the goal for 2020 was reduced to 80 percent from the previous goal of 100 percent included in the Law on Health Insurance approved by the National Assembly in 2008.

The old target is difficult to reach for many reasons, the official explained. For one thing, farmers, fishermen, students and businessmen displayed little interest in purchasing health insurance.

“Substandard quality examinations and treatment for those holding health insurance cards can be blamed for the low rate of voluntary buyers,” Kham said.

Poor public awareness of the benefits of health insurance is another reason for the lack of interest, according to Kham.

The ministry plans to ask the Government to provide more support to farmers and fishermen to buy insurance, he said.

Organisations will also be called on to provide funding.-VNA