Thu, May 22, 2008 - Page 2 News List

National insurance premiums will not go up: minister

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

New Health Minister Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) reaffirmed yesterday that the ministry would not raise national health insurance premiums until the nation's average per-capita income increased.

“If people’s income does not increase, any additional charge for health insurance would affect their lives, even though the percentage of any increase may be small,” he said.

“I believe the medical service is a security system and we should not raise the health insurance premium until people have a more stable income,” Lin said.

Lin made the comments at the legislature’s Health, Environment and Labor Committee, where lawmakers were scheduled to review a draft law for speech therapists.

This was his first day at the legislature.

However, a large part of the question-and-answer period focused on urgent issues facing the national health insurance system.

Last month, the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) tabled a report suggesting that the health insurance premium be raised from 4.55 percent to 5.18 percent. Otherwise, the system could face a NT$32.6 billion (US$1.07 billion) deficit by the end of this year.

Last year, the bureau reported NT$13.7 billion in losses.

Lin’s comments prompted some lawmakers to wonder how the department would resolve the national health insurance system’s serious financial problems.

In response, bureau president Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) said that raising the premium was only one of many solutions. Other sources of revenue, including earnings from the sale of public welfare lotteries and sports, could be used to cover the shortage in the national health insurance, he said.

Meanwhile, the bureau was considering appropriating 90 percent of the revenue collected from health and welfare donations from tobacco products (菸品健康捐) to help fund the system.

To lower the operational costs of the health insurance system, Lin said the department would seek to cut waste of medical resources, adding that some health insurance expenses should rather be covered by social welfare programs.

Commenting on his performance on his first day on the job, Lin gave himself a grade of six out of 10.

“I feel like a freshman at university, who doesn’t know what the principal is going to say,” he said.

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