Several opposition party lawmakers yesterday called for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to reshuffle the Cabinet and for Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) resignation after the Cabinet’s last-minute about-face on the healthcare reform bill.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) called the entire Cabinet “a letdown,” and said it failed to persuade governing party lawmakers to vote for the amendment to the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法), dubbed the second-generation National Health Insurance (NHI) system.
While Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and DPP lawmakers hold differing opinions on the scope of the healthcare amendment that seeks to broaden income sources, both agree that reforms are needed to fix the system, which is nearing fiscal bankruptcy.
“The second-generation healthcare bill had gone through such a long period of hard work before it arrived at the position where it was. But in one night … its fundamental basics were completely overturned,” Kuan said, referring to the proposal — presented by Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) and previously endorsed by Wu’s Cabinet in April — that was formally rejected at a meeting called by Wu and attended by some KMT lawmakers on Thursday.
Having been deliberated over for nearly 10 years, the reform proposal mainly focused on replacing the system — which currently calculates premiums based on an individual’s regular salary — with a premium scheme based on household income. Under the proposal, households with the same incomes would pay the same premium -regardless of the number of family members.
The proposal had been hailed as a fairer system because the Department of Health had suggested including other income in premium calculations such as cash awards, bonuses and festival awards, as well as interest on deposits, dividends on shares, income from leasing property and professional practice income. Income from profit--seeking activities and property trading would also be included.
Yaung had said the reform proposal would expand the NHI system’s annual premium base to NT$5.57 trillion (US$185.3 billion) from the current NT$3.37 trillion and that would help sustain the cash-strapped NHI system.
Single people with no dependents and wealthy people with forms of income beyond a regular salary would be subjected to higher premiums.
The DPP caucus opposed the idea, saying the scheme would not reflect reality and would damage the interests of the economically disadvantaged.
On Tuesday, a number of KMT legislators also voiced disagreement with the idea of assuming a “virtual” monthly income of NT$17,280 for the unemployed, stalling the bill from being put to a second and third reading on the legislative floor as scheduled. Some KMT lawmakers also cited concerns that increasing health insurance premiums would hurt their chances of re-election in legislative polls next year.
DPP lawmakers have claimed that since the eleventh-hour delay initiated by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Tuesday, the government is now moving toward introducing a watered-down version of the reform bill.
Wu on Thursday night asked Yaung to revise the plan according to the opinions of the lawmakers by maintaining the individual-based premium system, but redefining an individual’s income by incorporating other forms of income such as professional practice incomes and capital gains.