The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) has been holding talks with legislators on amending the law to cancel health insurance payments for people causing traffic accidents while driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, and of making them liable for paying for any medical costs from emergency response, hospitalization or after-care treatment of the victims.
The goal is to ensure that the driver at fault is held accountable for any social costs deriving from their breaking the law.
Some civic groups have said that such a move goes against the spirit of the national health insurance, and that health insurance payments should not be withheld from certain individuals, even if their actions are contemptible.
This brings to mind the question how it is that, when drunk driving has caused so much heartache to countless families, it is still regarded as an offense against public safety and not covered by compulsory automobile liability insurance?
This means that there are no subrogation rights when it comes to the national health insurance and so the perpetrators are not required to pay any compensation. This means that taxpayers end up footing the bill for the medical costs. How does that cohere with the principle of fairness and justice?
NHIA statistics on applications from medical centers from 2014 to 2016 show that annual medical fees accruing from treatment of victims of drunk-driving accidents were between NT$170 million and NT$310 million (US$5.5 million and US$10 million), or an average of about NT$80,000 to NT$110,000 per accident. That is significantly higher than the average medical fees from car accidents overall, which were between NT$60,000 and NT$70,000.
Is it not strange that drunk drivers do not receive payments from their compulsory automobile liability insurance, but are covered by health insurance and are not liable to pay compensation to victims?
Is it not the fact that this loophole, in which the unconscionable behavior of drunk drivers is left unpunished, has been allowed to exist an example of administrative negligence?
How is the nation to instill into drunk drivers an awareness of the risks of their behavior and disavow them of the notion that they can get away with it?
Apart from the light sentences they can expect to receive in court, or that they are not given the maximum penalty available to judges, drunk drivers are a huge cost for the health insurance system and society, and yet they do not bear the burden of the medical costs that arise from the accidents they cause. After all, they know that the tab will be picked up by the public.
This is the overriding reason drunk drivers will continue what they are doing and will not mend their ways.
Hopefully, the government will find a consensus within society about how to better approach this problem, bring together government agencies and amend the law to close this loophole.
Only when drunk drivers are made to pay an appropriate price for their sins will the nation be able to put an end to this problem.
Wei Shih-chang works in the information industry.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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