Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Top health official seeks support from legislature

POLICY The head of the Department of Health is calling on lawmakers to consider the impact on patients when weighing changes to insurance premiums and IC cards

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Department of Health (DOH) Director-General Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) appealed yesterday to lawmakers to put people's health first as they decide on two policy measures today.

The legislature is scheduled to decide today whether to revoke the hike in national health insurance payments and whether to postpone the implementation of integrated-circuit (IC) health cards.

Twu gave three reasons why lawmakers should not revoke the hike in health insurance premiums.

"First, since its launch in 1995, the National Health Insurance Program has enabled many people to access good medical care. The program has become a stabilizing influence in our society," Twu said, adding that the premium hike has allowed the program to continue.

"The poor will be the major victims if the program cannot go on," Twu said.

"Second, according to the law, the National Health Insurance Bureau (NHIB) can increase the premiums on its own when governmental funds for the program fall below a certain level," Twu said.

The NHIB can initiate the hike without the legislature's agreement if the hike does not exceed 6 percent of people's monthly incomes, according to the law.

Because of a growing deficit, the NHIB increased premiums from 4.25 percent to 4.55 percent of people's monthly incomes on Sept. 1 last year.

"Third, the DOH has designed some projects to help those who are unable to pay their premiums so as to accommodate them into the National Health Insurance Program," Twu said.

Twu added that The Economist once ranked Taiwan's national health insurance program as second best in the world.

"Many countries even sent experts to Taiwan to learn from our national health program," Twu said.

The premium hike last year triggered widespread protest from the public, and opposition lawmakers have since proposed rolling back the hike.

But whether the legislature has the right to do so remains a controversial issue since the law allows the NHIB to implement the hike without the legislature's consent.

Opposition lawmakers have also expressed concerns over the security of health IC cards, which will be distributed across the nation in a few months.

One of the main concerns about the cards is that patients' medical data might be hijacked from computer systems.

Taiwan Medical Association president Wu Yung-tung (吳運東) said in a press conference yesterday that the DOH should consider granting hospitals budgets to purchase and maintain IC-card-recognition machines.

Wu also called on the legislature to maintain the hike in health-insurance premiums.

"Revoking the hike would have a grave impact on our national health program. Both the people and the entire medical system would suffer greatly if the hike is revoked," Wu said.

This story has been viewed 3098 times.
TOP top