Sat, Dec 14, 2002 - Page 2 News List

DOH talks hit meltdown

MEDICAL CRISIS Negotiations between the health department and six major medical associations were stalled after disagreements over insurance payments

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Negotiations between the Department of Health (DOH) and six major medical associations broke down yesterday after the DOH refused to increase health insurance payments to hospitals.

Hospital representatives asked the DOH to increase the annual insurance payments by 9.39 percent but the DOH said it would only raise the payments by 4.01 percent.

Wu Ming-yen (吳明彥), secretary general of the Non-governmental Hospital and Clinic Association, was quoted by Chinese newspapers that hospitals may need to reduce patients if the DOH does not increase insurance payments.

But Wu issued a statement late last night clarifying his position.

"Hospitals will never sacrifice patients' rights simply because the negotiations broke [down]," the statement said.

"This year the annual health insurance payment the DOH paid to hospitals was NT$223.2 billion," said Wu after the negotiations.

He said hospitals could hardly survive with the payment.

"The DOH only agreed to raise the annual payment by 4.01 percent, which means the total payment will only rise to NT$241.6 billion," said Wu.

"Hospitals need at least NT$254.1 billion every year," He said.

Wu gave an example of the financial difficulties hospitals faced by pointing out that it takes NT$3.5 billion to import new drugs for hepatitis B and C every year.

"However, the Bureau of National Health Insurance only paid an annual NT$7 million for the drugs," said Wu.

Wu said hospitals could not manage to take care of hepatitis patients with so small a payment.

According to hospital representatives, Taiwan's medical costs occupy 5 percent of its annual GNP, the third lowest among the 29 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The DOH told hospital representatives they plan to hold more negotiations

Meanwhile, Hsieh Wu-chi (謝武吉), secretary general of the Taiwan Community Hospital Association, said the payment increase proposed by the DOH could not keep up with the rise in medical costs.

Hsieh did not attend the negotiations with the DOH but his hospital in Kaohsiung shares the same financial problems.

"The medical costs for severe patients increases by NT$7 billion per year," Hsieh reported.

"If the DOH is still unwilling to increase health insurance payments for hospitals, community hospitals will probably refuse to receive cancer patients who need chemotherapy as of next year," he said.

Under the current situation, the more cancer patients a community hospital receives, the more money it loses. "Because insurance payments are not enough to cover the costs," Hsieh said.

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