The National Health Insurance (NHI) budget is to rise 4.7 percent to NT$875.5 billion (US$28 billion) next year, with premiums remaining unchanged, the Executive Yuan told a news conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.
The NHI system budget has increased from NT$619.6 billion in 2016 to NT$836.4 billion this year, an average annual growth rate of 4.37 percent, National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said.
In July, the Executive Yuan approved a budget increase of 2.621 to 4.7 percent for next year, which translates to NT$859.14 billion to NT$875.53 billion, Shih said.
Photo: Chung Li-hua, Taipei Times
“We then proposed to raise next year’s budget to the ceiling approved by the Executive Yuan,” he said, adding that the agency has done so for the first time in eight years.
The budget increase was proposed to counter the effects on the NHI system after it began covering medical expenses of people with COVID-19 from March 20, he said.
Meanwhile, people who were unable to access medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic are now seeking NHI coverage from after the pandemic, he said.
“However, during our negotiations for this year’s budget, we failed to take into account a potential increase in medical expenditure after the government lifted COVID-19 restrictions. As such, the point value by which clinics and hospitals receive their reimbursements decreased this year,” he said.
The National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法) stipulates that healthcare providers within the NHI system should declare points for the medical services they provide and drugs they dispense.
The government calculates the value of each point based on the budget allocated and reviews the points declared by healthcare providers before paying each contracted provider based on the reviewed points.
NHIA data showed a significant increase of COVID-19 and parainfluenza cases during the first and second quarters this year compared with the same quarters in 2019, he said.
“As such, we decided to use government funding to subsidize NHI-contracted medical institutions for the increase in points during the two quarters compared with 2019, with each additional point valued at NT$1. Regions with an average point value under NT$0.9 would receive NT$0.9 per point through the subsidy,” he said.
The NHIA estimated that about NT$5.133 billion would be needed to subsidize healthcare providers, including NT$470 million for traditional Chinese medicine clinics, NT$565 million for Western medicine clinics and NT$4.099 billion for hospitals.
To fund the subsidy, the agency would first use NT$800 million from the NHI budget that was purposely set aside for the expense required to mitigate the impact from “unexpected risks” and “changes unforeseen when the NHI policy was stipulated,” Shih said, adding that the Executive Yuan is to allocate NT$24 billion to replenish the National Health Insurance Fund this year.
Subsidies needed for the third and fourth quarters are not expected to be higher than those for the first two quarters, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Victor Wang (王必勝) said.
Separately, the Cabinet also approved an amendment to the Fire Service Act (消防法), which was proposed in the wake of a fire that broke out at Launch Technologies Co’s golf ball factory in Pingtung County in September, killing four firefighters and six civilians.
The amendment requires warehouses storing chemicals to be equipped with fire extinguishers, and to have personnel in charge of providing safety information during a fire, the Ministry of the Interior said. Those who fail to do so would be fined up to NT$10 million.
Management would also face a prison sentence of up to seven years if their negligence leads to death or injury, it said.
Following the amendment, the definition of a “whistle-blower” would be expanded to include all employees who work or used to work at places that produce and store dangerous goods, rather than just former employees.
The government may use a portion of the fines imposed on businesses to reward whistle-blowers.
Businesses that manage facilities with stored dangerous goods 30 times higher than the restricted amount would be fined NT$20,000 to NT$300,000 if they fail to follow fire prevention plans, report fires or guide people to safety.
An amendment to the Factory Management Act (工廠管理輔導法), which was also passed at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, would allow authorities to directly fine factory owners NT$50,000 to NT$5 million if they manufacture, process or use dangerous goods beyond the amount mandated by law and fail to report them to the government.
Deputy Minister of the Interior Wu Jung-hui (吳容輝) said that the ministry is tasking experts to draft a chapter in the Fire Service Act to legalize the formation of the firefighters’ association, which is expected to be completed in three months.
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