Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Health payments should be based on income: panel

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

After two days of discussion on how to keep the national health insurance system afloat, the 20-member citizen panel yesterday suggested that the government narrow the scope of insurance coverage and calculate insurance payment on the basis of personal income.

The panel agreed that the current national health insurance system has granted Taiwanese citizens easy access to medical treatment for the past decade. Yet this accessibility may have prompted some people to abuse medical resources, panelists said.

The panel said that Taiwanese citizens who live abroad should not be entitled to health insurance unless they continue to make insurance payments and stay in Taiwan for a certain period of time.

"[The government] will respect the conclusions reached by the citizen panel. We will deliberate on its viability. If the suggestions are not workable, we will explain to the public why we can't follow the panel's advice," said Liu Chien-hsiang (劉見祥), the president of Bureau of National Health Insurance.

To address fairness issues stemming from insurance payments made by people from different income backgrounds, the panel suggested that the government calculate individual insurance payments on the basis of personal income -- a method akin to income tax payments.

"Richer people should pay more and poorer people should pay less. This seems justified," said one panelist on the condition of anonymity.

Although the panel agreed that wealthier people should pay more into the insurance system, they did not spell out specifically how they should contribute.

Also, the panel failed to reach an agreement on whether to raise insurance premiums, a thorny issue on which the Department of Health directed the panel to hammer out a consensus.

After four hours of discussion, only three of the 20 members thought that a fare hike is necessary to keep the insurance system running. The remaining 17 panelists insisted that the government ensure quality medical services and the transparency of hospital's financial dealings before the government taxes the population.

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