Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Control Yuan opens can of worms

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Control Yuan has been forced to weigh in to the fight between the Cabinet and the legislature over the increase in national health insurance fees.

On Wednesday, the Control Yuan concluded its investigation into the Department of Health's (DOH) decision to increase premiums and co-payment fees and said the move was improper.

The investigation found that the department went ahead with the fee increase despite lacking a complete legal procedure to make a statute order (the premium hike was considered such an order) to forward to the legislature.

"The DOH made a procedural error by implementing the fee change without informing the legislature. The report to the legislature is required," Control Yuan member Chang Teh-ming (張德銘) told reporters.

The Control Yuan said the health department must rectify the incomplete implementation of the changes and forward the rate hike issue to the Legislative Yuan in two months.

"The correction was made because we hope to end the long-standing practice of perfunctory policy implementation by both the [former] KMT and DPP administrations," Chang said.

Commenting on an expected confrontation between the legislature and the Executive Yuan on the issue of fee hikes, Chang said the Control Yuan acted within its authority.

"The confrontation between the other two branches is outside of my jurisdiction," he said.

But a legal scholar cast doubt on Chang's explanation.

"The official correction creates uncertainty about the insurance policy since it has triggered another possible war between the legislature and the administration," said Tsai Mawin (蔡茂寅), an associate professor in National Taiwan University's law department.

The key question about the correction is not whether Control Yuan members used the wrong laws to find fault with the health department; it is that the Control Yuan appears to have undertaken the job of interpreting laws, Tsai said, adding that this job belongs to the Judicial Yuan.

The Control Yuan pointed to administrative laws to conclude that the DOH had skirted legislative power in adopting the fee increase.

The correction means the Cabinet must send all such government bulletins to the legislature in accordance with the Central Laws and Regulations Standards Law (中央法規標準法).

"The ruling could, however, add to the workload of lawmakers as well as result in a time-consuming procedure for the Cabinet in formulating similar administrative bulletins," Tsai said.

But the Control Yuan decision could trigger more problems than simply adding to the workload of legislators, since the opposition KMT was not only ready to blame the DPP for the administrative error but also appeared to seek punishment for the party over the fee increases.

A survey released by the KMT legislative caucus showed that 52 percent of respondents disapproved of the Executive Yuan's decision to proceed with the increase even after Control Yuan made the correction.

The KMT also revealed that 63 percent of respondents believed the Control Yuan should consider impeaching government officials who insist on implementing the fee increases.

Conflict is expected when the legislature sits in September, with speculation that the pan-blue camp will initiate a review of the National Health Insurance Law (全民健康保險法) in an attempt to revoke the Cabinet's authorization to review insurance fees.

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