Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Guangdong hospital could solve verification dilemma

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

A special hospital in Guangdong serving the medical needs of China-based Taiwanese business-people is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006, forcing policymakers to find ways of bringing this category of expats under the wing of the national health insurance system.

"Right now, people can apply to the Bureau of National Health Insurance for reimbursement of expenses incurred in medical emergencies that occur abroad -- this includes China. However, it is impossible for us to verify the existence of or give accreditation to Chinese hospitals," Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said.

Chiu was commenting on police investigations that have uncovered scams in which medical reimbursements are being claimed with phony receipts.

"About 60 percent of claims which the bureau approves each year go to medical costs incurred in China. It's hard for the government to verify if these expenses are genuine -- was it really that expensive? Was there really a need for it?" Chiu said.

"There's also the matter of whether we should recognize the [medical practitioner] credentials Chinese doctors possess," he added.

China-based Taiwanese businessmen, or taishang, are calling on the government to develop more than just a medical reimbursement program -- they want the national health insurance program to be extended in full to designated hospitals in China, and in particular to special hospitals for taishang.

"There is a need for this kind of hospital in China. We're not used to the way China uses drugs or their medical treatment, so a lot of minor health problems become major health problems over time," Chang Han-wen (張漢文), honorary president of the Taiwan Businessmen Association of Dongguan, told the Taipei Times yesterday. "In addition, businesspeople have to put up with a lot of pressure from work ... So many people over the age of 40 are having sudden medical problems."

The 500-bed taishang hospital will have nine stories and cost US$70 million to build. Construction is scheduled to begin in two months and finish in December 2006. The hospital will concentrate on meeting the medical needs of Taiwanese businesspeople, but not exclusively, Chang said.

"Having a special hospital will simplify this matter and offer a means to solve the fraud issue. It'll make it much harder for cheats to break the law [with phony paperwork]," said Andrew Yeh (葉春榮), vice president of the Taiwan Businessmen Association of Dongguan.

"If the health insurance system that is implemented in China works just as it does in Taiwan, then it would eliminate a lot of red tape for both parties," Yeh said.

Yeh added that management of the taishang hospital would fall under Chinese jurisdiction, but at least the bureau would be able to verify that the hospital was conforming to regulations regarding treatment and drug costs.

Chang said the hospital would mostly employ Taiwanese doctors, bypassing complications involved in recognizing Chinese medical practitioners. Yeh also said that the taishang hospital would have a sister relationship with a hospital in Taipei.

Given the lack of a consensus as to licensing and systematic verification processes, the MAC also highlighted the need for cross-strait cooperation in formulating policies to regulate health insurance coverage in China.

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