Thu, May 01, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Health officials give reassurances on health insurance

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Health officials yesterday promised not to put a proposal that would raise the general premium rate for health insurance by 13.85 percent into practice before the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration steps down.

“We will not lift the premium rate before the May 20 inauguration of [president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] without legislative approval,” said Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), deputy minister of the Department of Health (DOH).

Chen and Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民), president and CEO of the Bureau of National Health Insurance, were asked to brief lawmakers about the bureau’s recent proposal to adjust the rate from 4.55 percent of the insured person’s salary to 5.18 percent.

Many KMT lawmakers attended the legislature’s Sanitation and Environment, Social Welfare and Labor Committee to demand officials back down from the proposal.

“I heard Minister Hou Sheng-mao (侯勝茂) has agreed to sacrifice himself to lift the premium as he will leave the department after May 19,” KMT Legislator Chu Feng-chih (朱鳳芝) said.

According to Article 19 of the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法), the government is authorized to lift the general premium rate without legislative approval if the rate after adjustment is still lower than 6 percent of the insured’s salary.

KMT Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交) told the officials not to rush to increase the premium as Ma had vowed to expand the budget earmarked for national health from 6.2 percent of GDP to 7.5 percent. That would see a yearly increase of about NT$120 billion (US$4 billion) in the bureau’s revenue.

“Increasing the premium rate will worsen the hardships of the public given the price hikes in commodities and services. You should give Ma a chance to deal with the problem,” Hwang said.

The bureau presented the proposal on Friday.

In it, the bureau warned that if the premium rate was not raised, the accumulated deficits of the insurance system would top NT$32.6 billion (US$1.072 billion) at the end of this year.

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