Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 3 News List

NHI supplementary income policy slammed

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Health reform groups yesterday criticized the government’s policy of raising the minimum threshold for imposing the National Health Insurance’s (NHI) supplementary premium on income from part-time jobs as a move aimed at winning votes.

The policy — raising the minimum threshold for imposing the NHI supplementary premiums from NT$5,000 to NT$20,000 starting from Jan. 1 next year — was announced on Thursday by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Representatives of civic groups yesterday morning held up signs reading “only listening to the Financial Supervisory Commission, not the National Health Insurance Committee,” and “Making profit for capital gains, harsh on salary earners,” criticizing the policy and chanting demands for a “reasonable and fair” NHI system.

Invited to speak at the protest and sign a petition with the groups, former minister of health Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) said: “Only ghosts would believe that the policy was not made according to political calculations,” because it is not urgent and does not directly improve the quality of healthcare.

According to regulations, adjustments to NHI premiums should be decided by the NHI committee, which consists of delegates from different groups and academics, but now the ministry arbitrarily excludes the committee from the decisionmaking process, which is disrespectful to the body which represents the public, he said.

“Would it not be better to use the NHI reserve fund to take care of low-income households or easing the working conditions of medical staff? That way the whole population would be able to benefit from it,” he said.

“Money from the NHI system should be returned to the NHI and the NHI committee should decide how to make use of it,” Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation chief executive officer Joanne Liu (劉淑瓊) said, adding that the group is in favor of using the NHI reserve fund to improve the quality of medical services, rather than sparing some people from paying supplementary premiums on non-salary incomes.

Kuo Ming-cheng (郭明政), a professor of law at National Chengchi University, said the second-generation NHI program was designed to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, but as it had not yet succeeded in collecting premiums by total household income, the policy is once again only profiting the few people with non-salary incomes.

“Salary earners — about 80 percent of the population — are carrying rich people on their backs, widening the gap between the rich and the poor,” Raging Citizens Act Now representative Ku Yu-ling (顧玉玲) said.

“The policy is aimed at encouraging investment and punishing salaried employees,” she said, adding that even medical staff at hospitals are victims of the current NHI system, which benefits the enterprises that own hospitals, not its employees.

“The NHI system should not be politically manipulated to secure votes,” Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety secretary-general Lai I-ching (賴奕菁) said, adding that the system had never paid medical staff enough, causing hospital management to impose harsh working conditions and resulting in talented staff quitting their jobs.

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