Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Premier under fire over NHI debt plan

By Wang Chang-min  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Liu Chao-hsiuan (劉兆玄) and Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) came under fire from legislators and civic groups this week over a Cabinet plan to separate the issues of National Health Insurance (NHI) subsidy debts owed by local governments and confiscation of government-owned land, with one group demanding that Liu and Yeh step down if it proceeds.

The calls came after Liu’s visit to the DOH earlier this week when he said that while some local governments had unpaid health insurance debts, confiscation of property would result in ineffective use of the land. He suggested the two issues be handled separately.

Yeh agreed with the premier, saying that government agencies should negotiate with each other instead of taking matters to court or confiscating land.

Lawmakers criticized the plan, saying that local governments who were accumulating debt on purpose should be punished and that the plan was unfair to local governments that have been paying their health insurance payments on time.

While Kaohsiung City Government has introduced an eight-year plan for paying its health insurance subsidy debts, Taipei City Government does not even have a plan, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ho Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳) said.

Taipei City Government should make its payments just like any other local government, KMT Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交) said.

The NHI belongs to everybody and most people work hard to pay their health insurance premiums, so we cannot let Taipei City Government purposely ignore its debts and allow government agencies to make a secret deal under the table, Alliance for Surveillance of the National Health Insurance spokesperson Eva Teng (滕西華) said.

The alliance said it would urge the NHI Fund Supervisory Committee to demand that Taipei City Government pay off its subsidy debts in order to prove its responsibility to the public.

They also said Liu and Yeh should step down if the government went ahead with their plan, or else they would call on the public to refuse to pay their NHI fees.

Bureau of NHI statistics showed that subsidy debts currently owed by local governments total NT$54.4 billion (US$1.65 billion), with Taipei City Government alone owing NT$29.4 billion.

Past lawsuits resulted in a Supreme Administrative Court ruling against Taipei City Government last year and it was told to pay off the debt that had accrued between 1999 and 2002.

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