Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Oral healthcare law passed, but not without debate

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Oral Cavity Healthcare Law (口腔健康法) passed the legislature in May 2003 without objection, but not without fierce debate on whether oral diseases should be covered by the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI).

The main focus of the law is stipulated in Article 3, which requires medical treatment of oral diseases to be included in the health insurance program.

The Taiwan Dental Association set out to push the legislation after it was rumored that the Executive Yuan, which was drawing up a second generation national health insurance plan, might exclude medical treatment of oral diseases from the program, a senior legislative aide said.

PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE

Calling the association's promotion of the bill "a pre-emptive action," the aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that passage of the legislation had to do with the business of dentistry and sharing the financial resources of the health insurance program.

She said the government had considered removing certain items from the insurance program to resolve its massive financial problems before it was replaced by the Second Generation program, which has yet to be implemented.

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

Then Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) drafted the bill at the request of the association. The bill was cosigned by 47 lawmakers from across party lines.

When the bill was reviewed by the Sanitation and Environment and Social Welfare Committee on April 7, 2003, not every lawmaker was in favor of it.

DPP Legislator Hou Shui-sheng (侯水盛) expressed doubts about the legitimacy of enacting a law for a single part of the body.

Hou said passage of the bill might result in requests to make laws for eye diseases, women's diseases, coronary artery disease and others.

Another supporter was Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Shyu Jonh-shyoung (徐中雄), who said that including treatment for oral diseases in the national health insurance program was one of the most important elements of the entire legislation.

Shyu said the item should not be excluded because maintaining oral health was an essential part of preventative medicine.

GOVERNMENT DIVIDED

The government did not submit its own proposal about oral disease and even Department of Health officials were divided on the issue.

The then minister of the Department of Health Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) told a meeting of the committee that it was necessary to enact legislation specific to oral health given the public's general lack of knowledge about oral disease and healthcare.

But the vice director-general of the department, Yang Han-chuan, suggested that legislators consider incorporating the treatment of oral diseases into the national health insurance program when the second generation program was submitted to the legislature, instead of enacting a specific law to cover oral healthcare.

There was no mention at the time of the legislative debate over the oral cavity healthcare bill that inducements might have been offered to lawmakers to win passage of the bill.

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