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NHI to see up to NT$36 bil. in new fees

The China Post news staff--The National Health Insurance (NHI) program may see extra income ranging from NT$18 billion to NT$36 billion from supplementary premiums next year when the new fee scheme takes effect, officials said yesterday.

Officials from the NHI bureau said the obvious uncertainty in the estimated incomes, which are based on taxation information from 2008, comes from the fact that people may have various ways to avoid paying the supplementary premiums.

The bureau chief, Tai Kuei-ying, admitted that they have no “experience” on which they can rely to make the estimates for the so-called second-generation NHI.

Currently premiums for the universal health program are based on people's regular incomes.

But the new NHI program, which is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013, requires the insured to pay supplementary premiums based on their extra incomes, such as bonuses, interest from savings and earnings from stock investments.

The new scheme is meant to be a fair design where people with more income contribute more to the hybrid health program bordering on social welfare and insurance.

The government also hopes the increased income will save the financially troubled health program from going bankrupt.

The bureau said the six categories of extra income in the new premium scheme cover almost 90 percent of the sources of incomes for the people.

But a finance scholar noted that an increase of only NT$18 billion will not be sufficient to cover the shortfall of the program, which spends NT$500 billion each year, or NT$1.5 billion daily, according to the United Evening News.

The increased income from the supplementary premiums will be gone in two weeks, the scholar was cited as saying.

The scholar also faulted the second-generation NHI, saying its design is flawed and many details are still being revised, the report said.

The report noted that the NHI bureau has yet to decide how stock earnings should be translated into premiums.

It remains a controversy whether people should continue to be exempt from payments during their stays abroad, and whether overseas Chinese should continue to enjoy the benefits of the program without working and living in Taiwan.

The large range in estimates of the supplementary premiums means that it will be difficult for the health authorities to fine tune their budget for 2013, observers said.

There are many ways that people can defeat the supplementary premiums system.

For example, an interest payment of over NT$2,000 from a savings account will incur supplementary premiums. But people can split their savings into more accounts to prevent any single sum of interest payment exceeding NT$2,000.

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