Fri, Jan 14, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Taipei urged not appeal verdict

NT$16 BILLION AND GROWING The head of the Labor Insurance Bureau urged the city to accept its liability and pay the money it owes instead of making further appeals

STAFF WRITER

Labor Insurance Bureau General Manager Shih Cheh (史哲) called on the Taipei City Government yesterday to repay the NT$16 billion (US$502 million) it owes to the National Health Insurance Bureau, after the Taipei High Administrative Court tossed out the city's appeal yesterday morning.

Shih said the city government should accept liability for its debts as soon as possible and begin negotiations on paying the money.

He also urged it not to appeal yesterday's verdict to the Administrative Supreme Court.

Shih said that the city's debt had accrued at a rate of NT$350,000 per month since 2000, and now stood at NT$16 billion.

If the city insisted on making further appeals, he said it could end up owing as much as NT$20 billion.

Shih said recent cases -- such as a critically injured four-year-old girl being turned away from Taipei hospitals and an accident on the MRT in which a woman sustained a serious scalp injury -- only highlighted the importance of the social security system

He added that the smooth operation of the social security system relies on cooperation from all levels of government.

He said the city government's behavior in this issue was compromising the public's rights.

Shih noted that the Kaohsiung City Government had "at least shown some willingness to find a solution" to its debt to the health insurance system by making allowances in its annual budget for the repayment of debts accrued due to unpaid insurance contributions.

The Taipei City Government has been contesting the amount of health and labor contributions it is liable for.

The Department of Health says the city should be making contributions for everybody who works in Taipei, while the city government contends that it should only be responsible for those that live here.

Bureau of National Health Insurance Vice President Lai Chin-hsiang (賴進祥) said yesterday that the bureau not only plans to recover NT$10.84 billion that Taipei owes from before 2002, it will also seek to have the city government pay NT$11 billion for 2003 and last year.

The Taipei City Government, meanwhile, is still deciding whether to go ahead with an appeal.

But even if the Administrative Supreme Court upholds the city's appeal, it can only recommend the case for further proceedings, prolonging the litigation.

Nevertheless, since the alternative is being faced with a bill for more than NT$20 billion, including labor and health insurance fees, Chen Ching-hsiu (陳清秀) -- an administrative law expert and member of the city's Law and Regulation Commission -- is in favor of recommending the appeal.

According to Chen, yesterday's ruling "contravened Interpretation No. 550 of the Council of Grand Justices, as well as the Local Government Systems Law (地方制度法)."

Chen said that the former states that the local government's responsibilities are restricted to the people of the district under their governance, while Articles 15 and 16 of the latter say that the local government is only responsible for the social welfare of these people.

Chen said that both financial and legal experts agree with the city government's stance on this issue.

If Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) does not appeal the decision, or if the appeal is unsuccessful, the city government will have to find the money to repay the NT$20.7 billion debt, plus the insurance fees for Taipei residents as well as an additional annual bill of NT$5.8 billion for the more than 2 million non-residents that visit hospitals in the city every year.

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