A health insurance law passed in early 2012 told the State to pay 30 percent of health insurance card costs for farmers, fishermen and salt workers within a certain income range, but its implementation has been slowed down because of some difficulties in related procedures.

Only 30 percent of farmers, fishermen and salt workers have bought health insurance, said Tong Thi Song Huong, director of the Ministry of Health's Department of Health Insurance. The law aimed to give them more incentive to buy the insurance, which many are unable to afford.

The State assigned the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to set up income guidelines for the farmers, fishermen and salt workers who would receive the funds. The ministry announced in May that households of farmers, fishermen and salt workers with an average income of 521,000 VND to 900,000 VND (24 to 40 USD) per person per month in rural areas and 651,000 VND to 900,000 VND (30 to 40 USD) per person per month in urban areas would receive the discount.

Huong said the ministry would implement the law by the start of 2015.

Tran Van Dung, Director of the Nam Dinh Social Insurance, said the State had, in the past, given people living near the poverty line 70 percent of the amount needed to buy health insurance, but only 15 percent of people chose to buy them.

So, the workers would not buy cards with the State only covering 30 percent, he said.

"The farmers have low incomes, and although they are supported, they still cannot afford to buy health insurance," said Tran Van Phong, Deputy Director of Hung Yen Social Insurance.

Health insurance cards would cost 3 to 4 million VND (140 to 190 USD) for five to six people, which was still a substantial amount, he said.

Phan Van Anh, a social worker in the central province of Ha Tinh, suggested the State fund a larger portion of insurance costs for low-income families.-VNA