Sun, Sep 01, 2002 - Page 1 News List

3 million plan to boycott NHI hike

NOT PAYING Workers' organizations said yesterday that their members will refuse to pay the increases in the National Health Insurance premiums, which begin today

By Chang Yu-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

With increases in National Health Insurance (NHI) premiums taking effect today, nearly 3 million workers are planning to refuse to pay the additional 0.3 percent of their paychecks, workers' organizations said yesterday.

"Everyone has the right to refuse to pay the increase of 0.3 percent for the premium until the Department of Health (DOH) solves the problem of the waste of hospital medical resources and gets back the over NT$30 billion debt from local governments," said Lin Hui-kuan (林惠官), PFP lawmaker and the president of the Chinese Federation of Labor (CFL).

According to Lin, the nation's 2.96 million members of professional associations who pay their premiums directly to their professional association for onward remittance to the Bureau of National Health Insurance will be the first to respond to the campaign.

Although most employees' premiums are deducted directly from their pay packets and paid by their employers, freelancers and certain groups of workers whose trade or profession involves constant changes of employer -- such as construction workers and act-ors -- pay their premiums to professional associations.

In a press conference organized by the CFL yesterday, representatives from labor unions said that since last Tuesday's protest failed to halt the government from implementing the new payment scheme, they would launch a campaign to call on the public to refuse to pay the increased premiums.

"Since the government declined to listen to the angry voice of the general public, workers will use their own power to reject the unfair hike in the NHI payments," said Wu Hai-jui (吳海瑞), head of the National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC).

The conference was attended by representatives from seven labor unions and professional associations including the CFL and NTUC, the Confederation of Taipei Trade Unions), the National Laborer's Union, the Confederation of Professional Unions, the Labor Legislation Action Council, and the Labor Rights Association.

Starting from today, the NHI premiums will rise from the current 4.25 percent to 4.55 percent of a person's monthly salary and outpatients can expect charges of up to NT$710 per visit at the point of treatment.

The DOH expects the enforcement of the new payment scheme to sustain the nation's health insurance program for two more years.

With the increase in the outpatient fees in teaching hospitals and regional hospitals, the DOH is also hoping to encourage those with minor illnesses to visit clinics or local hospitals rather than crowding into teaching or regional hospitals.

Under the new scheme, for a worker from a professional association earning a monthly salary of NT$ 19,200 -- the average monthly salary of a worker -- the monthly premium will increase from NT$489 to NT$524 starting from today.

In the meantime, Lin also said that the workers are planning another protest in front of the Legislative Yuan on Sept. 24.

However, Vice President of the NHI bureau Liu Chien-hsiang (劉見祥) told the Taipei Times that those violating the new government policy should be aware that they would face penalty charges for overdue payments and possible suspension of their NHI benefits.

Under the NHI Act, the insured will face an overdue charge of 0.2 percent of the amount payable for each day of delay until the premium is fully paid.

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