The government will consider the feasibility of writing off unpaid loans for health insurance premiums owed by economically disadvantaged people after a thorough analysis on the matter is conducted, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday.
Liu made the remark in response to a question from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) during a question-and-answer session on the legislative floor.
Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said about 450,000 people, or about 2 percent of the population, remain outside the mandatory national health insurance system.
Most of these people need financial support, he said.
Yeh said there were measures in place to assist economically disadvantaged people to pay the insurance premium, by allowing them to pay in installments or apply for a government subsidy, but he admitted that further efforts were needed.
Bureau of National Health Insurance data shows the total amount of unpaid premiums stood at NT$17.7 billion (US$506.5 million) at the end of January.
Pan asked the government to cancel the unpaid premiums owed by individuals and families plagued by unemployment and unpaid leave, an approach the former DPP government adopted in 2003 to the benefit of 210,000 people.
“Everyone has the right to medical care, while the government is obligated to safeguard that right, to give them the courage to live,” Pan said.
Liu told Pan that the Executive Yuan would come up with a plan within a month to create a social safety net program to help people get through economic difficulties.
He said that the plan would incorporate new measures to address people being unable to afford the national health insurance and national pension premiums.
Meanwhile, in response to a question from DPP Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), Liu said the Executive Yuan would examine whether the eligibility period for unemployment benefits should be extended from the current six months to nine months and who would qualify for such an extension.