Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

A deadbeat city should not whine, but pay up

By Wu Yung-tung吳運東

Taipei City owes money to the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) and has had property seized by the central government to cover this payment. Taipei Deputy Mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德) called a press conference to say that this behavior, which he called unfair and unreasonable, was unacceptable.

As a former supervisory commissioner of the BNHI, a position I held for six years, I know that over the last two years the commission has passed resolutions calling on the BNHI and the Department of Health to negotiate with the Taipei and Kaohsiung city governments to pay their national insurance fees that were in arrears as soon as possible. As these requests repeatedly failed to achieve results, the supervisory commission had no choice but to pass a resolution demanding that the BNHI take legal action to recover the money owed.

When the city is owed fees or taxes, it takes legal action as soon as the assessment or fee becomes overdue. But when it owes money to others, and they take legal action when these debts become overdue, the Taipei city government responds angrily. Are there two standards for fairness and justice?

What makes me angry is that when an individual's National Health Insurance payment becomes overdue, this person will be subject to punishments such as legally enforced payment of interest on the money owed and additional overdue fees, and he or she may even be denied insurance compensation. If a medical organization makes false claims for payment, or overservices its clients, it may be reprimanded. In the event of other violations of regulations, medical service providers may receive demerits, be fined or even have their contracts terminated.

Now that the Taipei City Government has failed to pay more than NT$10 billion in National Health Insurance subsidies, it is in violation of the law. It has not proposed any payment plan despite repeated requests by the supervisory commission. It should be treated in exactly the same way as individuals and have its case referred to the judiciary. The Department of Administrative Enforcement and the BNHI were merely fulfilling their duty under the law [in confiscating the property], and cannot be blamed for their actions.

If the National Health Insur-ance system is to be sustainable, it requires the cooperation of the people, the medical community and the government. In the past, members of the medical profession sought to remedy unreasonable aspects of the national health insurance provisions in consultation with other bodies. They did not adopt an attitude of resist-ance, noncompliance or obstructionism.

Now that the city government owes money, it may also seek to amend the provisions of the national health insurance law. But until these amendments are made, the city should pay the money that it owes, just like other agencies do.

National health insurance belongs to everyone, so if nobody pays, it will not be sustainable. If the government does not obey the law, we cannot expect people to.

Wu Yung-tung is a former president of the Taiwan Medical Association.

Translated by Ian Bartholomew

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