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May 29, 2017

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Former Taiwanese health chief testifies at US Senate

WASHINGTON -- Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川), a former director general of Taiwan's Department of Health, on Tuesday became the first person serving or having served as a Taiwanese Cabinet-level official to testify at a United States Senate hearing.

Yeh, who headed the DOH from 2008 to 2009 was invited to explain Taiwan's public health insurance program before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions amid controversy surrounding U.S. President Barack Obama's health program.

Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂), Taiwan's health chief between 2005-2008, 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, and his remarks were put into the Congressional record.

Yeh said after the hearing that there was no system suitable for one country that could be fully applied to another country.

The senators were interested in Taiwan's health insurance program, which delivers health care costs that are a quarter of those found in the United States on a cost-of-living adjusted basis but also offers better outcomes than does the U.S. system, Yeh said.

One reason is that Taiwan sticks to the economic principle of free competition, which improves efficiency and reduces waste, the former Taiwanese health chief said.

Some senators voiced concerns that Taiwan's program has been slow to permit new drugs and new medical technologies, but Yeh noted that patients can still have access to the new services if they are willing to pay for them.

Yeh was one of several foreign health experts who testified at Tuesday's hearing, which was presided over by Senator Bernard Sanders, a senior member of the committee.

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