Wed, Dec 29, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Progress moving slowly on NHI premium reform

By Flora Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Limited progress was made yesterday on a proposal to reform the National Health Insurance (NHI) premium scheme, despite efforts by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to push the bill through as soon as possible.

Lawmakers reached a consensus that the Department of Health should propose a hypothetical calculation of NHI premiums based on the scheme advanced by the department.

Legislators would then compare the department’s scheme with that proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) before voting on the department’s bill, KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) told reporters after cross-party negotiations in the morning.

An initial version of a reformed NHI plan proposed by the department failed to pass a second and third reading in the legislature on Dec. 7, forcing Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) to propose a new version, which he submitted to the legislature on Dec. 16.

Under the new version, an individual’s premium would be calculated based on income from interest, share dividends, professional practice and any cash awards that are four times more than a person’s monthly salary.

The department’s previous proposal would have had premiums calculated based on total household income, rather than an individual’s salary as is done at present. The DPP’s proposal is similar to the original version proposed by the department.

The DPP has been critical of the new version, calling it “unfair” because it does not cap supplementary earnings or include pension funds and rent income as part of its income calculations.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) yesterday questioned the feasibility of the new version of the bill advanced by the department.

“The Executive Yuan said it would like to lower the premiums for 70 percent of the people under the proposed scheme, but it also wanted to lower the premium rate. However, it is impossible. Even God can’t make that happen,” Ker said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that although the KMT caucus would like to push through the department’s proposal by Friday, legislators should vote on the bill on Tuesday next week, which would give the department a week to submit the hypothetical calculations to the legislature.

Meanwhile, the legislature passed an amendment to the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) obliging the government to grant living expense stipends to students who study on outlying islands, but have difficulty traveling back home to other outlying islands after school.

Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Ping-kun (林炳坤), who proposed the amendment, said students living on smaller offshore islands sometimes had no choice but to stay on major islands after school because of limited transportation services.

At present, the government only provides stipends for transportation, Lin said.

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