The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that starting next month, the maximum amount hospitals and clinics can charge patients for registration fees for a doctor’s appointment is NT$150.
The department also set the cap for registration fees for emergency hospital visits at NT$300.
However, as there are no laws governing how much hospitals can charge for registration fees, the DOH can only advise hospitals on what would be a reasonable amount rather than issuing fines to institutions that do not comply, Bureau of Medical Affairs Director Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said.
The issue of large discrepancies between hospitals’ registration fees surfaced two months ago, when the Bureau of National Health Insurance asked medical institutions nationwide to provide information on registration fees.
The results showed that although most hospitals and clinics charged patients between NT$100 and NT$150 for a doctor’s appointment, some hospitals, such as the Chung Shan Hospital off Renai Road in Taipei, charged up to NT$300 for regular visits and NT$450 for emergency visits.
Conversely, small clinics in rural parts in southern Taiwan charged as little as NT$20 to NT$30 for an appointment.
The large discrepancy was attributed to various factors that influence the hospitals’ finances, such as the cost of living in the area and hospital expenses such as salaries and rent, the DOH said.
Shih said that even though authorities did not have the legal power to issue fines to hospitals that charge unreasonably expensive registration fees, the DOH can pressure them to comply by publicizing on the DOH Web site the names and addresses of hospitals that charge exorbitant fees.
“Currently, only about 20 [hospitals and clinics] do not meet the requirements,” Shih said.
“We will continue to supervise and evaluate the hospitals. If they do not make improvements, we will publicize their names,” Shih added.
The DOH also called on the public to let it know if they find hospitals charging registration fees above the maximum amount set by authorities.