The announcement of an imminent premium hike failed to impress the National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance, which panned the proposal yesterday as a temporary fix and warned that the problem would worsen unless there was a massive overhaul of the system.
A spokeswoman for the watchdog alliance, Eva Teng (滕西華), said the solution to the Bureau of National Health Insurance’s (BNHI) prolonged financial woes is an expedited amendment to the National Insurance Act (全民健保法) and the implementation of a second generation health plan that guards against dishonest doctors and medical institutions.
Doctors who overcharge the system and institutions that falsely inflate pharmaceutical costs are two major reasons for the BNHI’s problems, she said.
“The extra income accrued under the new premium plan will only be enough to save the bureau from insolvency in the short run … if the government refuses to implement comprehensive reform, the system will continue to lack transparency and the taxpayers still be in the dark on the real reasons behind the premium raise,” she said, urging the government to stop treating the public as its personal cash cow,” she said.
The second generation health plan will require the government to take tougher action against violators, and most importantly, those insured would be charged according to their salary brackets — a fairer way of distributing the burden, the alliance said, stressing that the Executive Yuan should implement the health plan by next year at the latest.
The proposed increase to a rate of 5.17 percent is expected to stabilize the bureau’s finance for two years — in other words, the government is hoping the political dividends conferred by the new adjustment will last until the 2012 presidential election, Teng said.
“A consensus on a second generation health plan has already been forged. There is no reason to wait for two years,” Teng said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) yesterday criticized Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang’s (楊志良) surprise resignation last Monday as being a smokescreen designed to aid the passage of the premium increases.
It was unreasonable that the public had to pay increased premiums because of a failure by the DOH to collect debts owed by municipal health departments and negotiate rising pharmaceutical prices, she added.
“The whole resignation was a show … designed to mask President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) commitment to raise insurance premiums,” she said. “In the end, all these problems are still unresolved.”
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said that even though the government promised to exempt low-income earners from the full premium increase, the money used to do so would still come from taxes, increasing the burden on everyday taxpayers.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, on the other hand, yesterday praised the health insurance scheme, saying the premium adjustment was reasonable. KMT caucus secretary-general Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said the new scheme could guarantee social justice and stabilize society.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VINCENT Y. CHAO AND FLORA WANG
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