Tue, Feb 15, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Hsieh approves new plan to hike health premiums

HIGHER PAYMENTS Only those making more than NT$87,600 per month will be affected, as the Premier promised that the new plan won't affect the seriously ill

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The country's rich will likely shoulder higher health insurance premiums, as Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday approved raising the ceiling on such premiums in a bid to bolster the nation's cash-strapped national health system.

The change will force the nation's white-collar workers, employers and company owners with monthly salaries greater than NT$87,600 to pay a higher monthly premium.

The plan is scheduled for approval at next Wednesday's weekly Cabinet meeting, at which time more details will be released to the public. Part of the plan that requires legal revision is also subject to the legislature's approval. In the meantime, the premier will visit hospitals and clinics to solicit first-hand opinions about the health insurance reform.

According to Cabinet Spokesman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), Hsieh made the decision yesterday morning after holding a one-hour talk with acting director-general of the Department of Health Wang Hsiu-hung (王秀紅), deputy director-general Ho Sheng-mao (侯勝茂) and Minister without Portfolio Fu Li-yeh (傅立葉).

"In order to let the public enjoy a better quality health insurance system, certain adjustments have to be made," Cho said. "However, we're here to promise you that although the premium ceiling for the rich is being raised, there won't be any increase to the premiums of the poor and the seriously ill and our resolve to take care of them remains unchanged."

According to Cho, there will not be any increase to basic premiums for those whose monthly salaries are less than NT$87,600. The premiums for the seriously ill and chronically ill will not be increased either.

Statistics made available by the Department of Health showed that raising the monthly insurance ceiling to NT$130,000 is expected to bring in NT$1.4 billion for the health insurance program.

Among the targeted 167,000 people, who are about 2 percent of the total insured, white-collar workers with salaries higher than NT$87,600 will have to pay an extra NT$50 to NT$579 per month.

Employers or company owners who make NT$130,000 a month will pay another NT$1,930 on top of their monthly NT$15,994 premium.

The measure is designed to bring in more money to keep the program, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, afloat. While the health department has a NT$4.3 billion safety reserve left, it is estimated that it will be used up by next month as it overdraws the account by NT$1.4 billion every month.

Apart from the money-generating proposal, Cho said that the premier yesterday also approved five more measures designed to prevent further wasting of medical resources.

First, the department will use the information stored in the insurer's computer health card to identify and crack down on "hospital shoppers" -- people who drain medical resources by making frequent and unnecessary trips to hospitals.

It will also make an effort to reduce redundant medical examinations, tests and medication.

The department plans to more strictly supervise the price of drugs, take the initiative to investigate outrageous differences in drug prices and make efforts to narrow the gap in those prices.

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