Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 4 News List

New DOH chief to focus on sorting out NHIB finances

DEEP PROBLEMS The National Health Insurance Bureau is running out of money but the premier has just vetoed the obvious solution -- a hike in premiums

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Amid urgent calls to bolster the tottering national health insurance program, the new director-general of the Department of Health (DOH), Ho Sheng-mao (侯勝茂), yesterday said solving the financial problems of the National Health Insurance Bureau would be the primary aim of his term of office.

"Our national health insurance is a leaky big ship with 24 million people on board. My first priority is to stop the expense leakage," Ho told reporters yesterday.

The NT$ 4.3 billion safety reserve for the insurance program is expected to be used up by March. Since the new premier, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), has promised to keep the current insurance rate pegged, lowering expenses and finding other sources of revenue for the program is essential.

"The national health insurance program's financial plight will be his biggest challenge. He took office in an increasingly difficult situation -- the order from the top said no to an insurance rate hike even before he came into office. The national health insurance program is already an political issue," said the former DOH director-general Lee Ming-liang (李明亮).

Ho, the former chief of orthopedics at National Taiwan University Hospital and instructor to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) son-in-law Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘) at the hospital, is said to have impress Hsieh with his expertise in health policy during their meetings, although Ho's taking the post seemed in doubt over the last two weeks.

In the face of the health insurance program's financial problems, Ho hinted that a slight insurance rate rise may be unavoidable. "Without pumping more oil to the ship, the ship [the national health insurance] cannot go any further. Yet we have to tell passengers on board how much oil we need and to what destination we are sailing," Ho added. Although Ho mentioned a minor insurance premium hike in his inaugural address, he did not disclose any details.

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