Thu, Mar 14, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet rejects a rise in national health premiums

MEDICAL CARE The Cabinet yesterday approved changes to the National Health Insurance Law that aims to end unfairness in the system and plans to increase insurance payments

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday approved amendments to the National Health Insurance Law, sweeping aside the Department of Health's original plan to raise health-insurance premiums by July.

If the legislature approves the amendments, it may help bring in an additional NT$19.8 billion in annual healthcare premiums.

Addressing the media after the weekly closed-door Cabinet affairs meeting yesterday, Cabinet spo-kesman Chuang Suo-hang (莊碩漢) said that it was "inappropriate" to increase health-insurance premiums when there were other alternatives in addressing the inefficiencies in the healthcare system.

"We thought it might be better to instead amend certain legal provisions and make the payment system more reasonable and fair," Chuang said.

Claiming losses of between NT$1.5 billion and NT$2 billion monthly, the Bureau of National Health Insurance proposed to the Department of Health an increase in rates for full-time workers from the current 4.25 percent to 4.91 percent of an insurant's monthly salary starting in July.

The premium rate has remained at 4.25 percent since the national health insurance system was launched in March 1995.

Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), director-general of the Department of Health, told yesterday's press conference that the system had paid out more in benefits than it took in through premiums every month for several years.

"Many factors contribute to the financial losses, the primary ones being the slowdown in economic development, the swift aging of the population and the advance of medical technology," Lee said.

In addition to pressing efforts to root out inefficiency and pressuring local governments to pay off their outstanding insurance debts, Lee said that the department hopes to amend the National Health Insurance Law to make the system fairer.

"The amendments address three major flaws in the health-insurance payment system, which we found to be unfair and in need of revision," Lee said.

First of all, the department would like to increase the premium rates for government employees and soldiers, Lee said.

Under the current system, workers' premiums are a function of their full-time salaries. However, premiums for government employees and soldiers are calculated based on 55 percent of their full-time salaries, while those for manual workers are 80 percent.

"We'd like to increase the percentage for government employees and soldiers to the level of other workers," Lee said.

Secondly, the department would like to have people with high incomes pay a higher premium than those with low incomes, Lee said.

Under the current system, the highest monthly premium paid by an insurant is about four times more than the lowest monthly premium. Lee said that the department would like to increase the highest monthly premiums, making them five times more than the lowest monthly premiums. Finally, Lee said, the department would like to change the rules that penalize the unemployed.

Under the current system, unemployed people pay more in premiums than people with jobs.

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