Sat, May 17, 2008 - Page 2 News List

New health chief vows no premium hike in near term

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Minister-designate of the Department of Health (DOH) Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) vowed yesterday to carry out president-elect Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) health policies, while pledging not to raise health insurance premiums in the near term.

In an interview with reporters, Lin, currently the superintendent of National Taiwan University Hospital, admitted that the National Health Insurance system was having financial difficulties, but added that he would not raise insurance fees.

He said that the healthcare program was fundamental to social stability, implying that authorities should take the economic situation into consideration before deciding whether premiums should be raised.

The National Health Insurance system, established in 1995, will have an accumulated deficit of NT$32.6 billion (US$1.06 billion) by the end of this year. This figure will increase to NT$214.2 billion by 2012 if premiums are not adjusted, the Bureau of National Health Insurance has said.

The bureau has suggested raising the premium rate from 4.55 percent to 5.18 percent, but most legislators have opposed the proposal.

Lin said he supports Ma’s campaign promise that the premiums should not be raised before an increase in economic growth rates.

If the country is prospering, I will not oppose raising the insurance premiums, but it is not the opportune time now,” Lin said.

Lin added that Taiwan’s health insurance system needs gradual reform, and that raising the premiums alone cannot resolve its problems.

Lin also addressed the problem of an imbalance in medical resources, with big cities enjoying most of the resources while economically poorer and mountainous areas do not have sufficient or good quality hospitals.

Admitting that the public does not need so many big hospitals and medical centers, Lin promised to review the current system and to enhance medical services in local communities and rural areas.

As to the sensitive topic of Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, Lin said the country should push for participation.

But when it comes to the question of what to name to apply under, Lin said the DOH would follow the instructions of the Cabinet and the Presidential Office.

As for who will be the three health deputy ministers, Lin declined to give their names before the Cabinet makes a final decision.

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