Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Truce agreed on health payments

TAKE A BREATHER The Department of Health and the Taipei City Government have been at each other's throats, but they've struck a deal and suspended their hostilities

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Department of Health and the Taipei City Government agreed yesterday to refrain from airing in public their disagreements over payment of the city's contributions to the health insurance system, a move that appears likely to reduce tensions in what has been a contentious dispute.

The two sides also agreed that deadlines for the city's contributions would be postponed for three months and that property the department had seized from the city would be returned.

"We have decided that the National Health Insurance Bureau will postpone payment enforcement, but the Taipei City Government will have to pay interest [on bank loans that the department takes out as a result of the subsidies' not having been paid]," Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), director-general of the department, said yesterday after holding a meeting with Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

According to Chen, the postponement will also apply to the Kaohsiung City Government, which owes the Bureau NT$9.9 billion in insurance subsidies that have accrued since 2000.

The arrangement will allow for properties recently seized in both Taipei and Kaohsiung to be returned.

On June 14, the Department of Administrative Enforcement seized 30 pieces of Taipei City Government property, valued at about NT$11.2 billion, as a result of the city's not having made its payments. Property worth an estimated NT$2.6 billion was seized from the Kaohsiung City Government.

Another element of yesterday's agreement was that disputes about the insurance contributions would be resolved in the courts.

The two sides urged judges to issue a verdict as soon as possible.

"There will still be a debate, but it will be in the courts," Ma said, saying that yesterday's negotiations with Chen had rendered a public debate unnecessary.

The disagreement stems from differences in interpretation of Article 27 of the National Health Insurance Law (健保法), which establishes a method for calculating insurance contributions.

The department interprets Article 27 to mean that the Taipei City Government must make payments on behalf of all 3.58 million people who work in the city, while the city government contends that it is only required to make contributions for the 2.63 million people who live in the city.

According to the bureau, the Taipei City Government has underpaid since 2000 and now owes NT$10.8 billion in contributions.

A legal battle over the matter began with a lawsuit in 2000 in which the city claimed that Article 27 violated the city government's constitutionally protected power of legislation and its ability to administer finances and revenue. A constitutional interpretation handed down by the Council of Grand Justices failed to clearly resolve the issue.

Following the lawsuit, the city proposed a 10-year payment program that was finally rejected by the Department of Administrative Enforcement in February.

The city government then brought its case to the Taipei Administrative High Court.

The High Court ruled in favor of the bureau on March 4.

The city government further appealed that ruling and is now awaiting the Administrative Supreme Court's verdict on the appeal.

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