Despite the harsh winter plaguing the area, residents in the central region's Quang Ngai Province are hesistant to go to hospitals when they fall sick. The reason: authorities have not renewed their health insurance cards for this year.
More than 13,000 people, or nearly 90 percent of the population of Tay Tra District, lives below the poverty line and is eligible for new health insurance cards. However, only about 6,000 have received the renewed cards since the beginning of 2011.
Some communes in the district have not even updated their lists of Below Poverty Line (BPL) residents at the social affairs office.
Pham Tinh, head of Tay Tra District social affairs office, said the office ordered communes to provide the lists in November 2010 but the communes "have been sluggish and neglected the job."
Chau Nguyen Thuong, director of Tay Tra District Medical Center, said many residents are suffering from respiratory diseases, with temperatures in the mountainous district hovering around 14 degrees Celsius.
"The poor people can't afford to go to medical centers and hospitals without their renewed health insurance cards," Thuong told local news website VnExpress.
Patients bringing insurance cards are only charged 5 percent of hospital fees and medicine cost, he said. Otherwise, they have to pay the full cost.