Fri, May 21, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Legislators review bill to close health insurance loophole

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators yesterday agreed to amend the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法) to close a loophole and reduce abuse of the system, stipulating that overseas Taiwanese returning to the country must reside in Taiwan for at least six months before they can take advantage of the healthcare system.

Department of Health (DOH) officials and lawmakers yesterday continued their preliminary review of proposed amendments to the act during the legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee meeting.

As the law stands, overseas Taiwanese who have suspended their national health insurance coverage and do not pay premiums while abroad can immediately restore coverage and be eligible for medical care upon re-entering the country.

Because of this loophole, many overseas Taiwanese return for medical treatment that would be more expensive overseas. The loophole has attracted much criticism from activists and lawmakers, who say that this type of abuse of the system has contributed to the insurance fund's worsening financial situation.

Lawmakers reached a consensus on passing a preliminary review of the restriction that would require Taiwanese who have lived abroad for more than four years to wait six months after returning to the country before they can restore their health insurance coverage and re-establish their right to healthcare.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) discussed the possibility of excluding Taiwanese students studying overseas from this restriction in order to allow them to have access to medical care immediately upon returning to Taiwan.

However, Chu Tong-kuang (曲同光), deputy convener of a DOH task force on insurance premiums, said the reason the loophole existed in the first place was to allow overseas Taiwanese students to have coverage immediately upon their return. Therefore, he said, excluding students from the new rule would reopen the loophole.

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