Thu, Sep 30, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Foundation slams health fees

FOR A PRICE:The group said guidelines should be implemented to eliminate discrepancies between health centers covered by different local governments

BY SHELLEY HUANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Health Reform Foundation executive director Liu Mei-chun speaks at a press conference in Taipei yesterday to highlight problems with hospitals charging additional fees for services such as line-jumping and changing hospital beds.

PHOTO: CNA

The Taiwan Health Reform Foundation yesterday criticized some hospitals for charging patients for drawing up additional medical history, requesting a specific physician and other services, adding that the ultimate responsibility lay with the Department of Health for failing to supervise medical institutions.

Hospitals that charge patients inappropriately for items, including transferring hospital beds, taking pills in powder form and the option to cut in line during doctor appointments, are in violation of the Medical Care Act (醫療法) and could be fined between NT$50,000 and NT$250,000, the group said yesterday.

Foundation executive director Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君) said the foundation had received numerous reports about complaints from patients who claimed to have been charged additional fees for such items or services.

Such rampant violations, Liu said, were the result of local health bureaus’ failure to supervise medical institutions.

“Hospitals that allow patients to cut in line for a fee are not respecting the rights of other patients,” Liu said.

The foundation also discovered that there remained large discrepancies in the amounts charged between medical institutions. Fees for the same type of X-ray can range between NT$200 and NT$1,000, depending on the hospital, Liu said.

While hospitals in some parts of the country are barred from charging patients additional fees for certain items or services, other local governments allow them, Liu said, adding that the lack of comprehensive standards across all counties and cities had caused confusion, for which the department should take responsibility as the central authority.

“The department should establish clear guidelines on which types of fees are allowed and which are prohibited,” the -director said.

“If the local health bureaus and the department keep passing the buck back and forth, the public will have no protection against unreasonable policies,” she said.

The department’s Bureau of National Health Insurance said it had already instructed medical institutions nationwide to make public all medical-related fees by the end of this month.

The bureau said that while there might be slight differences in the amounts charged because of the different living standards in various parts of the country, it would crack down on hospitals that charge inappropriate fees or impose unreasonably high costs.

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