Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 2 News List

CONSUMER VOUCHERS: Most hospitals to accept vouchers as way of paying bills

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Most public and private hospitals around the country will accept consumer vouchers from patients as payment for their medical bills, said Wang Chia-wen (王佳文), chairman of the Taiwan Medical Association.

Medical institutions had hesitated to accept the vouchers because they are not for-profit enterprises and cannot directly exchange them for cash at local banks.

That resistance collapsed on Friday morning, however, when National Taiwan University Hospital and Taipei Veterans General Hospital said they would let patients use the vouchers to pay for all medical charges.

A number of hospitals followed suit later in the day, including Mackay Memorial Hospital, Tri-Service General Hospital, all 12 Taipei municipal hospitals, all six Tzu-Chi Buddhist General Hospitals, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and its branches, Veterans General Hospital in Taichung and Kaohsiung, Cathay General Hospital and Shin Kong Wu Ho Su Memorial Hospital.

Local clinics are free to decide whether or not to accept the vouchers because they may have trouble converting them to cash, Wang said.

Though the bigger hospitals cannot cash them at banks, they plan to use the vouchers to buy supplies from pharmaceutical or equipment vendors.

At smaller-scale clinics, physicians may have to spend the collected vouchers on their own personal needs, he said. Wang suggested that patients obtain detailed information before trying to use the vouchers at local hospitals or clinics.

Meanwhile, the Eden Social Welfare Foundation urged consumers to use their vouchers in shops affiliated with the foundation to help it maintain and strengthen its elderly care program.

Donations to the foundation last year fell 30 percent compared with the previous year, putting a squeeze on its programs for senior citizens, and the foundation hopes to tap into the NT$85 billion (US$2.5 billion) in vouchers that started distribution yesterday to sustain its operations, said Ben Lin (林文賓), the director-general of the foundation’s Social Enterprise Division.

“In such a cold winter and a sluggish economy like this, I hope more businesses and more people can join us to give warmth to the elderly,” Lin said, urging the public to use their vouchers at any of 1,500 stores around Taiwan affiliated with the foundation.

The stores, which include hair salons, bakeries and coffee shops, will donate NT$10 or the difference between the vouchers and the actual purchase amount (on purchases that are less than the voucher’s value) to the foundation any time a purchase is made with the coupons.

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