The Ministry of Justice yesterday said that although all prisoners are to join the National Health Insurance (NHI) program next year, it has not found hospitals willing to serve the inmates of seven prisons and detention centers in northern Taiwan.
Agency of Corrections director Wu Sen-chang (吳憲璋) told the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee that while the second-generation NHI program — which will also cover all prisoners —is scheduled to be implemented next year, the ministry had not found hospitals willing to provide beds for Taipei Prison, the Taipei Detention Center, the Taipei Women’s Detention Center, Taoyuan Prison, Taoyuan Women’s Prison, and the Taipei and Taoyuan juvenile detention houses.
Wu said that if the ministry failed to find hospitals willing to take on prisoners, it would ask the Department of Health to assign hospitals to the penitentiary institutions.
Wu added that some hospitals might be hesitant because of the controversies surrounding jailed former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) medical treatment in Taipei Prison and outside hospitals.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) said that as unemployed people, the disadvantaged and victims of crimes pay their own NHI fees, it was unreasonable to ask taxpayers to pay the health insurance fees of prisoners.
Instead, the prisoners’ insurance bill should be paid with a fund inmates can contribute to from what they earn working in prison factories, he said.
Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) agreed that it was a good idea. The ministry said it did not support the idea of taxpayers footing prisoners’ insurance bills, but that the law had been passed by the legislature.
Tseng said the ministry would review the policy after it takes effect in one year and that a prisoners’ fund was its preferred policy for financing inmates’ health care.