Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Health watchdog wants cheaters fined

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A national health insurance watchdog yesterday said the government is not doing enough to prevent people from cheating the system and urged the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) to impose hefty fines on violators.

The call came after news broke earlier this week that top model Lin Chih-lin (林志玲) had not paid her insurance premiums for three years, accruing NT$215,000 in outstanding payments. The bureau did not collect her overdue payments until this month.

Lin’s agent said the model had already rectified the problem, which had been unintentional.

Lin reportedly had applied to temporarily suspend her insurance in 2007 because she spent so much time working aboard.

The law stipulates that those out of the country for a minimum of six consecutive months are entitled to apply to stop their coverage.

National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance spokeswoman Eva Teng (騰西華) said Lin’s case highlighted a major problem with the bureau, which does not ask that people clarify the reason for, or the duration, of their trips abroad.

Applicants only need submit an application, proof of travel such as airplane tickets and a visa.

“The bureau has no clue of the purpose or length of the trips people make. Someone could easily apply to terminate their insurance plan while going on vacation in Bali for a week,” Teng said.

While the bureau argues that requiring such information constitutes invasion of privacy, Teng disagrees because “the government often demands we provide private information in other situations such as filing for income tax or applying for adoption.”

Teng also said it wasn’t right that Lin did not have to pay a penalty or interest.

The lack of a penalty would only encourage others not to pay on time because “after all, they can just pay it back later when they feel like it,” she said.

Meanwhile, the BNHI said it has expanded its online service that allows patients to compare the quality and prices of hospitals targeting certain diseases.

Patients can now compare medical institutions according to basic benchmarks set by the bureau such as how fast the average patient is discharged and remission rates.

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