New NHI president faces questioning in Legislative Yuan

INAPPROPRIATE: One legislator claimed that billions in NHI funds are used in activities that should have been paid for by other agencies

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 2

The National Health Insurance's (NHI) new president and CEO Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) faced legislators for the first time yesterday to answer some tough questions at a legislative budgetary meeting.

"The honeymoon is over," joked Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Winston Dang (陳重信) to Chu, who took over the post on Monday.

Chu was first grilled on a lack of adequate labeling on NHI medications. A case was cited where suppositories were mistakenly taken orally due to confusing instructions.

Most other criticism, however, focused on the NHI's continued financial woes and the drug price-padding scandal.

"The prosecutors are moving on the NHI because the NHI failed in its gatekeeper role," said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Te-fu (林得福).

Lin also accused the NHI of "attempting to escape the supervision of the Legislative Yuan" by seeking to increase funding through expanding the revenue base rather than raising rates, which would require the approval of the legislature.

KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) and DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) urged the NHI to push harder for the recovery of funds owed to it.

Billions in NHI funds were inappropriately used in activities that should have been budgeted separately by the executive branch, such as for disease control and training for doctors, Yang said.

"The Department of Health and the Executive Yuan are in cahoots," she added. "They're using the NHI money to do what they want without justifying it to the public."

Despite the barrage of sharp questions, some legislators were hopeful, saying that Chu, whose background is in finance and taxation rather than medical studies, will help resolve the NHI's funding crisis.