Sat, Feb 19, 2005 - Page 4 News List

DOH hammers out health financing

FUNDING STRATEGIES The administration is looking at a combination of cigarette and air pollution taxes as possible ways of financing the national health program

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

At the end of his first day, the new Department of Health Director-General Ho Sheng-mao (侯勝茂) yesterday said that the DOH and other government agencies have agreed on a combination of solutions in a bid to fund the ailing national health insurance (NHI) system.

According to Ho, the DOH has gained support from the Ministry of Finance to raise the health tax levied on cigarettes and has sought the consent of the Environmental Protection Administration to shift its air pollution tax income to the NHI program.

Previously, the DOH's Bureau of Health Promotion proposed to raise the health tax levied on cigarettes from NT$5 per pack to NT$10 per pack, a change that now has the support of the Executive Yuan.

"We are glad that all government branches understand the sense of urgency to turn around the NHI," Ho said.

Another solution is to raise the total insured amount of the government's employees, teachers, and military officers from 82.42 percent of their salaries to a slightly higher 87.04 percent.

On the other hand, the Executive Yuan also has consented to draw up an additional annual budget to bolster the tottering NHI system.

The annual budget will encompass spending on communicable disease prevention, clinical teaching at large hospitals, and preventive medicine. Earlier this year, the DOH asked the Executive Yuan to use the over NT$11 billion annual budget to cover the aforementioned expenditures.

Yet Ho stressed that inter-party negotiations are necessary to hammer out the exact amount.

In the Executive Yuan's news releases, however, another possible solution would be to make patients pay more for their visits to clinics and hospitals.

Under the current system, a patient pays for NT$50 per visit to a clinic, NT$140 to a community hospital or regional hospital, and NT$210 to a large medical center.

The Bureau of National Health Insurance previously has suggested raising the fee to NT$80 at clini, NT$200 at community or regional hospitals, and NT$300 at larger medical centers.

Yet the cost may go higher as the DOH is pushing ahead with a family doctor program to discourage patients from seeking medical help in hospitals without a family doctor's referral.

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