The Shanghai Sports Bureau said Wednesday that media reports saying it will provide free, lifetime medical coverage for 23 of China's world or Olympic champions were exaggerated and the elite athletes will have to pay any deductible that their free insurance plan may not cover.
The Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday that 23 world or Olympic champions and four coaches, including renowned hurdler Liu Xiang and his coach Sun Haiping, would enjoy completely free lifetime medical services at Shanghai's Huashan hospital, after an agreement was signed between the hospital and the bureau on March 14.
The bureau said on its microblog Wednesday that the athletes will be entitled to receive treatment at the hospital under the terms of a commercial health insurance plan bought for them by the Shanghai Sports Development Foundation, a non-profit organization specializing in athletes' welfare.
When contacted by the Global Times, the bureau would not provide details on how much of a deductible the athletes might have to pay.
"They will have to pay their medical fees like others. The hospital treats all the patients equally," a staffer of Huashan Hospital said Wednesday, adding it was against hospital policy to reveal her name.
While the staffer insisted the hospital must be paid for its services, she said it will also fast track athletes and that special teams of doctors and nurses have been set up to care for them.
Some of the current and former champions, including hurdler Liu Xiang, who is one of the wealthiest athletes in China, have been previously treated at Huashan Hospital, the staffer said.