Former Department of Health director-general Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) on Tuesday became the first serving or one-time Taiwanese Cabinet-level official to testify at a US Senate hearing.
Yeh, who headed the department from 2008 to 2009, was invited to explain Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, amid controversy over US President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan.
Yeh’s predecessor, Hou Sheng-mou, (侯勝茂) who was Taiwan’s health director between 2005 and 2008, gave a speech on Capitol Hill in 2008 while still in office, but Yeh was the first former or incumbent Taiwanese official to appear at a formal Senate hearing.
His remarks are now part of the US Congressional record.
After the hearing, Yeh said that there was no system suitable for one country that could be fully applied to another.
The US senators were interested in Taiwan’s health insurance program because, on a cost-of-living adjusted basis, its healthcare costs are one-quarter of those racked up by its US counterpart, but it still offer better outcomes than the US system, Yeh said.
One reason for this is that Taiwan sticks to a free-market principle, which improves efficiency and reduces waste, he said.
Yeh was one of several foreign health experts who testified at Tuesday’s hearing, which was presided over by senior committee member US Senator Bernard Sanders.