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DOH is not planning to hike NT$2,000 NHI fee threshold: official

The China Post--Chu Tong-kuang (曲同光), a deputy convener of a task force on National Health Insurance (NHI) affairs, stated yesterday that the Department of Health (DOH, 衛生署) does not plan to raise the NT$2,000 NHI premium threshold.

According to DOH's new policy scheduled to be implemented on Jan. 1 2013, if a person receives interest income of more than NT$2,000 in a year, the person needs to pay an NHI premium of 2 percent of his/her said income.

Although many bank owners voiced opposition to this practice, Chu stated that after several meetings conducted within the DOH, the department decided not to raise the threshold, which will decrease its premium income.

According to Chu, the DOH estimated that if the threshold is raised from NT$2,000 to NT$5,000, the yearly income of NHI will be reduced by NT$4 billion to NT$5 billion, a paltry sum compared to the reduction that would result from the NT$20,000 premium that bank owners previously suggested.

Chu stated that the low threshold can help prevent depositors from dividing their deposits because they have to separate their money into several accounts. If the threshold is raised to NT$20,000, depositors only need to divide their money into fewer accounts to avoid being charged the premium fee.

Based on current interest rate of 1.2 percent for fixed deposits, when more than NT$166,000 is in a single account, the interest will accumulate to more than NT$2,000 a year.

'Disturbing and not cost-efficient': Banks

Taiwan's Bankers Association Chairman Liu Deng-cheng (劉燈城) reiterated the association's position yesterday that this practice is disturbing and not cost-efficient.

Liu stated that there are 14.99 million accounts in Taiwan that generate more than NT$2,000 a year. If banks are responsible for collecting the premium, they would have to spend NT$3.2 billion for the collection process, while the total premium revenue would be NT$3 billion, lower than the accrued costs.

Liu added that banks now have to allocate more people to accommodate their customers' demands of splitting their deposits into different accounts, which reduces banks' ability to provide other services.

According to Liu, the association still suggests the DOH raise the threshold to NT$20,000, or collect the premium along with income tax instead of requesting banks to do the job.

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