The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislature yesterday voted to unfreeze NT$2.5 billion (US$83.8 million) earmarked by the Department of Health (DOH) in this year’s budget to pay for health insurance fees owed by the Taipei and Kaohsiung city governments to the central government.
NT$2.41 billion was doled out to Taipei and NT$90 million to Kaohsiung as the central government decided to help the two city governments pay back the debts in five years, starting this year.
Among the 18 local governments that owe the National Health Insurance Bureau (NHIB), the Taipei City Government tops the list with a total of NT$44.7 billion outstanding. Its debt has been accumulating since 1999, when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), then the Taipei mayor, refused to pay the health insurance subsidies for non-Taipei residents.
The Kaohsiung City Government owes NT$22.6 billion as of August this year.
Noting that the Kaohsiung City Government has already proposed a 10-year plan to pay off its debt in installments, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) yesterday slammed the passage of the budget, saying it had dragged the Kaohsiung City Government down the drain along with the Taipei City Government.
It was unreasonable for taxpayers to pay for the debt incurred by Ma, under whose time as Taipei mayor the debt had accumulated, Pan said.
In other developments, the KMT yesterday finalized its national health insurance (NHI) reform package after Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) presented the latest version at a KMT caucus meeting attended by Vice Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) and KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰).
Under the latest reform package, the NHI premium rate will be slightly less than the current 5.17 percent of an individual’s salary.
But the package also calls for a new source of premium revenues that had previously gone untapped. The program will collect 2 percent of stock dividends, interest income, professional income and “high bonuses” as a “supplemental premium” to strengthen the system’s finances. “High bonuses” are defined as total bonuses that are at least four times higher than an individual’s monthly salary.
The latest package was a compromise after Yaung’s plan to calculate NHI premiums based on household income failed to receive the endorsement of KMT -lawmakers when it was sent to the legislature for final review earlier this month.
KMT Legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) said the party hoped the revised proposal could be screened during Tuesday’s session.
However, several academics yesterday voiced their objection to the revised plan.
“The revised plan keeps the major defects of the original plan — including categorization of the insured by profession and the complicated administrative process in transferring,” former NHIB president Chu Tse-min (朱澤民) told a news conference. “I don’t think this is what Yaung had aimed for initially.”
When the insured are categorized by profession, the percentage of the premium to be paid by people in the same category remains the same despite each individual in the category may have different amount of income, Chu said.
By complicating the administrative process, Chu meant that each time a person leaves a job, they have to transfer their NHI record out and move it into their new employer’s account.