A proposal to overhaul the National Health Insurance (NHI) system was rejected by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday as he decided to side with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers against the version proposed by the Department of Health (DOH).
“There will be a change to the DOH’s proposal. [DOH Minister Yaung [Chih-liang (楊志良)] agreed to revise its proposal and present a new version next Monday or Tuesday as Premier Wu strongly supported our [the KMT caucus’] opinions,” KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said last night.
Yang made the remarks after a meeting Wu called late last evening for Yaung and lawmakers to coordinate opinions on the amendment to the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法).
The amendment, advocated by Yaung, mainly involves a new scheme for calculating premiums based on total household income, rather than the current system, based on an individual’s salary.
When the Cabinet approved the amendment in April, the government pledged to push through the reform bill by the end of this year, after Yaung in March tendered his resignation, citing disagreement with Wu on his rate adjustment plan for the cash-strapped NHI system.
Yaung later decided to stay on at his post and vowed to push through the proposed amendment, dubbed the second-generation NHI system, in this legislative session.
After months of negotiations, however, Yaung failed to win support for his plan from not only the Democratic Progressive Party, but also a number of KMT lawmakers. Several lawmakers cited concerns that increases in health insurance premium would hurt their re--election bids in the legislative elections next year.
As a result, lawmakers backed away from the promise they jointly made in August that they would have the bill clear the floor by Tuesday.
At a press conference held following the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, Yaung defended the DOH’s proposal, saying “-imposing higher premiums on relatively wealthier households with fewer members is a necessary evil” in order to sustain the NHI system.
“It is impossible for everyone to pay lower health insurance premiums. People who have incomes other than a regular salary and few dependents ought to pay more, to help themselves and to help other people, as well as to shoulder the duty of social solidarity,” Yaung said.
The existing NHI system was generally considered unfair because calculating premiums on the basis of an individual’s salary imposes a heavier burden on those whose salary is their only income, who are often not wealthy, and on people who have more -dependents, Yaung said.
“Although we disagreed about calculating premiums based on total household income [as Yaung suggested,] we still wish to expand the premium base by including other forms of income such as capital gains and applying a withholding tax on income from derivative instruments, as well as imposing higher premium on wealthy people,” Yang said following the meeting last night.