The pan-blue-dominated legislature yesterday managed to push through a controversial amendment to the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法) after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators walked out in protest over what they called a “failure.”
Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), who previously said he would resign if the legislature failed to pass the reform bill by the current legislative session, last night tendered his resignation to Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) nonetheless.
Describing the amended National Health Insurance Act passed yesterday as 75 percent on a scale of zero to 100, Yaung in his resignation expressed regrets that he was unable to obtain the ideal 100 percent.
Yaung was also apologetic, -saying his “personal incompetence had resulted in the bumpy road to reforming the national health insurance system.”
Wu had not approved Yaung’s resignation as of press time and was quoted by the Government Information Office in a statement as saying that he hoped Yaung would stay in his post and see through the implementation of the amended National Health Insurance (NHI) system.
Earlier yesterday, a version proposed by the DPP, which would have calculated an individual’s insurance fee based on household income, was voted down during the plenary session, prompting DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) to call for the walkout.
Instead, the approved version, proposed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), will calculate a person’s premium based on his or her salary, as under the current system.
However, individuals who make extra income from investments, rent or bonuses that are four times their monthly salary would have to pay a “supplementary premium.”
Initial estimates by the government show the “supplementary premium” would increase NHI revenue by NT$20.8 billion (US$713.9 million) annually.
The amendment also tightens regulations on the eligibility of foreign residents for the insurance plan, stipulating that only holders of residency documents who are employed or have stayed in Taiwan for a minimum of six months can receive coverage.
The act originally covered foreign residents who had lived in Taiwan for a period of more than four months and full-time foreign workers employed by schools.
The Executive Yuan has the authority to decide when the new measures will come into force, the amendment said.
Before walking out, DPP legislators had taken turns speaking against the amendment, calling the KMT “inconsistent.” They accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking his promise to reform the NHI, saying the amendment was a “setback” rather than “reform.”
Holding up banners, the DPP caucus called the NHI reform process a “failure” and “ridiculous” and called on Wu to step down over the matter.
DPP Legislator Huang Jen-shu (黃仁杼) said the KMT only had electoral considerations in mind in proposing and passing the amendment, while Ker said that getting the right mechanism to calculate premiums was “essential.”
The sole purpose of the new reform package, one large banner read, was to enable the government to “reach [deeper] into the people’s pockets.”
“The KMT flip-flopped in a major way on this policy. Common sense dictates that either Wu should step down or Ma should apologize,” Ker said. “[The government] completely lacks the ability to carry out political policy.”