Wed, May 15, 2019 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

NHI a model for the world

Taiwan deserves a place at the World Health Assembly and other WHO programs. My own recent experience in Taiwan clearly demonstrates the excellence and effectiveness of its National Health Insurance (NHI) system.

On our way to Taiwan on April 3, my wife and I were in the security line at Honolulu International Airport when she bent down to tie one of her shoelaces. A careless person pushed her down from behind, injuring her knee on the concrete. Security guards offered to call an ambulance, but we declined, since our flight was boarding soon.

After icing it down throughout the flight, she felt better upon our arrival in Taipei, but pain and swelling persisted.

On April 5, I took her to the Tri-Service General Hospital emergency room in Taipei to confirm there were no other problems with her knee. We were expecting hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for X-rays, medicine and bandaging. The total cost was NT$2,666, or just US$85.65.

This was without local health insurance, since we were American visitors!

A relative from San Jose, California, was meeting us in Taiwan. After spending a few days in Tokyo first, he had diarrhea and fainted after vomiting. He suspected it was some bad sashimi he ate in Japan and was admitted to National Taiwan University Hospital.

After intravenous rehydration, antibiotics and an overnight stay, he was discharged. He was also given brain MRI, because he had fainted. The bill was less than US$300 without local health insurance. In the US, these procedures would have easily cost thousands.

The NHI covers 99 percent of Taiwanese citizens. The premium is scaled to income (currently at 4.69 percent) and supplemented by contributions from employers and taxes. Doctor visits and hospitalization cost no more than a registration fee and copayment for prescribed medicine, excluding extraordinary procedures.

For this, the annual health spending is currently 7 percent of GDP, compared with 17 percent or more in the US.

Taiwan has long achieved the WHO’s goal of universal health coverage, while many countries, including the US, have not.

Yet how is it that Taiwan is excluded from participating in WHO programs? Inclusion of Taiwan in WHO programs not only benefits Taiwan, but also all of humanity.

Yu-Chong Lin

Honolulu, Hawaii

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