Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet mulls controversy

By Ko Shu-ling and Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Executive Yuan said yesterday it does not rule out seeking a constitutional interpretation to settle the dispute with the legislature over controversial hikes in health insurance fees.

"If there's no other way to resolve the disputes between the two branches, we don't rule out the possibility of resorting to constitutional procedure," Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

Lin made the remark yesterday in response to a threat by opposition lawmakers to unseat Premier Yu Shyi-kun to make him take responsibility for the contentious insurance hikes.

According to Lin, the Executive Yuan does not need the legislature's approval to increase health insurance premiums and patients' co-payment fees because the National Health Insurance Law (全民健康保險法) grants the administration the right to make the changes.

"We've consulted various legal experts, all of whom agree that we are authorized to modify health insurance payments unless it's clearly stipulated in the law that the change requires legislative approval," Lin said.

Lin also said the government is not considering drafting more complete procedures for implementing the fee hikes.

"We'll instead provide the Control Yuan with comprehensive information about the implementation of the policy," Lin said.

Members of the Control Yuan on Wednesday proposed corrective measures against the Department of Health (DOH) for inappropriate implementation of increases to national health insurance premiums and co-payment fees.

The government watchdog body also told the department to draft more complete procedures within two months for implementing the program.

The KMT and PFP yesterday said that Yu should step down to take responsibility for the controversy if the Cabinet fails to comply with the Control Yuan's requests.

They also called for an immediate stop to implementation of the program and vowed to propose a draft amendment during the next legislative session to strip the Cabinet of its power to adjust health insurance payments.

TSU Legislator Su Yin-kuei (蘇盈貴) said that although the National Health Insurance Law permits the health department to increase insurance premiums, the department still needs to obtain the legislature's permission.

The Bureau of National Health Insurance under the DOH said the hikes launched last September remained valid despite the Control Yuan's request.

"We respect the Control Yuan's correction. The health department will convene a meeting to discuss with experts how to respond to that correction," Chang Hong-jen (張鴻仁), general manager of the bureau, told a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Although the Control Yuan has verbally delivered the correction, Chang said the DOH has not yet received forward notification of the announcement.

"The health department will give it careful thought and send a paper-based reply to the Control Yuan's correction in due course if the Control Yuan insists that the department send a proposal to the legislature for its approval of the price hikes," Chang said.

"I don't see anything wrong with the government's increasing the premiums and co-payment fees as other countries such as Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands all grant their health authorities the power to hike health insurance fees," Chang said.

The increases are justified, Chang said, because, according to the National Health Insurance Law, the bureau is not allowed to run deficits.

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