Thu, Jul 16, 2009 - Page 2 News List

White Paper recommends a boost for health funding

EXPERT ADVICE An Academia Sinica committee also advised the government to schedule payments for health services qualitatively instead of quantitatively

BY MEGGIE LU  /  STAFF REPORTER

A higher percentage of the nation’s GDP should be allocated to the National Health Insurance to improve the quality of care, an Academia Sinica expert committee said yesterday in a White Paper.

The advice was part of the committee’s six-page paper to the government featuring suggestions for the nation’s health coverage, and among a list of six major areas that the government could amend in the current program.

“Because of the aging of society and the increased prevalence of chronic illnesses, the need for good health care is becoming more and more important,” said academician and former Department of Health minister Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), a member of the committee.

While most developed countries spend more than 7.5 percent of their GDP on health expenditure — with the US spending 15 percent and Germany spending 10.8 percent — Chen said that the fact that life expectancy for Taiwanese men is 75.46 and women 81.72 and on par with these countries is “another Taiwanese miracle in addition to our economic miracle.”

“However, when it comes to the optimal health care we want to provide for critical patients, [Taiwan’s] 6 percent [of GDP] is on the low side,” he said.

Chen said the exact percentage of GDP that Taiwan needs to spend on its national health insurance program needs to be carefully analyzed and calculated.

“In a public forum conducted in 2004, it was agreed that if the bureau of national health insurance could clearly explain the need for people to pay more for their coverage, the increase would be acceptable,” he said.

The committee also advised the government to schedule payments for health services qualitatively instead of quantitatively, in order to fairly reflect the time and effort physicians spend on each case.

“Severity, complications and time required for the cases should be considered, instead of paying physicians by the number of cases they treat,” Chen said.

In addition, the White Paper included a suggestion for physicians to be subjected to professional laws instead of the criminal code for malpractice suits to better protect doctors’ rights.

“After spending the most effort possible in protecting their patients, doctors should be pardoned in some cases of medical mishaps if they have acted according to clinical guidelines,” Chen said.

This is not to say that physicians who make false advertisements or practice without valid licenses should be spared, but, “sometimes there are unexpected health risks and adverse drug effects,” Chen said.

The suggestion came after the observation that more and more medical students are opting for “safe” medical departments like dermatology or ear, nose and throat to avoid being involved in possible criminal trials.

“We are not getting enough intern doctors in surgery and obstetrics and gynecology,” Chen said.

A more reasonable payment schedule should also be implemented for new and patented [versus generic] drugs to reflect research efforts spent on them, and to encourage the development of the biotechnology industry, Chen said.

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