The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday called on the government to suspend or lower its planned increase of National Health Insurance (NHI) premiums in light of economic woes felt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) is considering raising premiums from 4.69 percent to 5.52 or 5.55 percent.
Income for businesses and ordinary people worldwide have taken a beating from the pandemic, the foundation said, urging the government to “feel the suffering of the people” and either freeze or lower the premium hike.
Photo: Lo Chi, Taipei Times
Article 3 of the National Health Insurance Act (全民健保法) stipulates that the government “should at least shoulder 36 percent of the remainder of the annual insurance budget minus promulgated revenues,” foundation deputy director-general Wu Jung-ta (吳榮達) said.
With the NHI’s finances in a sorry state and the end of the pandemic uncertain, the government should show compassion for the challenges people are enduring and bear a larger proportion of health insurance premiums, Wu said.
The government should budget for health expenditures and avoid adding to the burden placed on the NHI by leaving payments up to the agency, he added.
As for expanding revenue channels for the NHI, Wu pointed to Article 76 of the act, which allows for a “social health and welfare surcharge” to be placed on sales of alcohol and tobacco to generate revenue for the NHI reserve fund.
A tobacco surcharge has been implemented for many years, but an equivalent tax on alcohol has not yet been levied, he said.
Wu also recommended that the government consider emulating other nations by imposing a sugar tax, which could raise awareness of the dangers associated with consuming excessive amounts of sugar and provide a significant revenue source for the NHI.
According to the NHI’s estimated budget for next year, if premiums remain unchanged and additional funds are not raised elsewhere, the NHI reserve fund would fall below safe levels by the end of the year.
Officials therefore plan to discuss raising premiums during the NHI Committee meeting on Friday next week.
At this point, as raising premiums for next year appears inevitable, the government should at least consider limiting the premium to 4.91 or 5.17 percent at most, the amount it used to be, Wu added.
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