Tue, Aug 05, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Bureau ends contract for health cards with TECO

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

For six months starting tomorrow, more than 800,000 people will be forced to use a paper national health card as the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) decided to terminate its contract with TECO Electric and Machinery, the integrated-circuit card-making company, because of a possible conflict of interest.

The bureau said the decision to end the contract was the result of the company’s new chairman, Liu Chao-kai (劉兆凱), being the younger brother of Premier Liu Chao-shuan (劉兆玄).

“In accordance with the Civil Servants Conflict of Interest Prevention Act, the BNHI has decided not to renew its contract with TECO,” bureau head Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) said.

The Chinese-language United Daily yesterday quoted a high-ranking TECO employee who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying, “the problem could be easily solved because all it would take is for Liu Chao-kai to resign.”

It is estimated the bureau issues approximately 5,000 to 6,000 new cards daily, which means at least 800,000 people will be issued a temporary card before the bureau signs a new deal.

One official said the new cards would cost about NT$1 each to make but applicants would still have to pay the regular NT$200 fee.

The biggest drawback of the paper card is that it will not contain a cardholder’s medical history.

“Patients will have to be extra vigilant in telling doctors and nurses about their medical conditions,” Wang Yi-jen (王怡仁), BNHI manager said.

Pamela Hsu (許愛華), who has a mentally challenged daughter, worries that paper cards could be risky because some foreign caregivers do not speak Mandarin well enough to communicate the medical history of certain patients.

“My daughter is allergic to certain medications. What happens if our caregiver or even a family member forgets to tell a doctor about it?” she said.

Liu Chao-shuan yesterday ignored reporters’ inquiries when asked if he would encourage his brother to step down.

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