Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 2 News List

Labor Act to be fixed: lawmaker

INSURANCE ISSUE:Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link’s Huang Yi-ling said that payments are difficult to secure for those who have malignant mesothelioma

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Li-fen, center, speaks at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday alongside Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link executive director Huang Yi-ling, left, and Tseng Yi-ling, who was rejected an insurance claim after her father died.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

The families of people who die from work-related diseases after retirement might be ineligible to receive labor insurance due to provisions of the Labor Insurance Act (勞工保險條例), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Li-fen (李麗芬) said yesterday, adding that she would propose amendments to address the issue.

Such cases are especially common among people with malignant mesothelioma — a cancer of the thin tissue that covers the lung, chest wall and abdomen, which is linked to exposure to asbestos — because its symptoms typically do not show until decades after exposure and those affected might have canceled their labor insurance plan due to retirement, Lee told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

According to the act, people who develop work-related diseases while they were insured are ineligible for compensation payouts for death if the application is made more than a year after their labor insurance plan ends, she said.

While the retirees would be eligible for a disability compensation, the criteria are difficult to meet, she said.

For people with malignant mesothelioma, either payment is nearly impossible to secure, due to the disease’s long incubation period and rapid progression, Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link executive director Huang Yi-ling (黃怡翎) said.

The disease has an incubation period that can last 30 to 40 years and people typically die eight to 14 months after symptoms are first observed, Huang said.

“Although they are eligible for a disability compensation, they would not get it. The criteria for the compensation is that the patient must be wearing a oxygen mask, but by that time they could have only a week left. Their family is going to be taking care of them, not running tests to get a diagnosis needed for labor insurance forms,” she said.

At that stage, patients could also be too weak to undergo the pulmonary function tests required to apply for disability compensation, she said.

Tseng Yi-ling (曾伊齡) said that her father, a retired construction worker, died just two months after being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

Her application for compensation was rejected by the Bureau of Labor Insurance, which said her father was not eligible because he was not insured and he was not exposed to asbestos after he retired, Tseng said.

“We are people with access to some resources. If this happened to people who did not know what to do, they could just die without help. I hope this system could be changed,” she said.

Statistics show that the number of people in Taiwan with malignant mesothelioma have been increasing since 1995 and the figure is expected to peak between 2020 and 2030, Huang said.

Although the link between asbestos and cancer was discovered as early as the 1970s, the substance was not banned in Taiwan until Jan. 1, she said.

“The material was widely used in the 1980s in Taiwan, because it was cheap and convenient. People did not know it would lead to health problems,” she said.

To better protect workers, Lee said she is to promote an amendment to ensure compensation is paid for deaths in retirement from work-related diseases.

She also urged the Ministry of Labor to relax criteria for disability compensation and enhance training for staff to ensure they understand laws regarding labor insurance compensation for retirees.

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