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Foundation criticizes health care reform

The China Post --While Taiwan's health care plan is a globally recognized success, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bureau's proposal of reform has drawn criticism and skepticism from the Consumers' Foundation, Chinese Taipei (CF). The CF protested against the Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-Ta's (邱文達) “empty” promise to decrease the insurance rate from 5.17 percent of people's salaries to 4.91 percent in a press statement, yesterday.

Although Chiu pledged to decrease the rates, the DOH could not provide sufficient funds for medical insurance due to the slumping economy, resulting in a stubborn 5 percent insurance rate. CF Chairwoman Joann Su (蘇錦霞) blasted Chiu, stating that it was a promise made in April, and should not have been broken so easily. “This will only result in citizens losing faith in the government,” she said.

Taiwan's NHI program is a national medical insurance system that provides citizens equal health care funds through the redistribution of government finances from payroll taxes or direct government funding. As opposed to the second-generation plan, the first-generation plan's premium is solely based on the individual's household regular income.

The NHI's second-generation health insurance plan, set to launch on Jan. 1, 2013, levies a 2-percent rate on extra income, such as bonuses, interest from savings and earnings from stock investments for a supplementary premium fee. The object is to increase the NHI program's income and avoid bankruptcy, as well as have those with higher incomes contribute more to the program. The CF refuted the second-generation plan, stating that the new proposal would place a further burden on lower-income households.

NHI Director Huang San-quei (黃三桂) explained that the added 2 percent would increase the bureau's income to NT$20.8 billion, which would only provide medical coverage for the nation for an additional two weeks. “In order to stabilize health care finances, rates must remain at 5 percent of a person's income,” Huang said.

According to reports, an increase of 4.26 percent of government medical coverage was spent on the bottom 20 percent of income earners in the last 10 years, a rise from NT$32,804 to NT$34,202. The increase in government medical spending for the higher-income population (the top 20 percent) was 42.85 percent, a rise from NT$51,620 to NT$73,742 over the last 10 years. “This reveals that the government's medical subsidies were mostly spent by the higher-income households,” noted the CF. “It is not fair to lower-income families who are obliged to pay such a high rate for insurance, which they don't even use that often,” officials from the CF added.

The CF also fired questions at the government's direct funding totaling NT$4.7 billion to hospital sectors in an effort to boost the number of medical workers and nurses from between 2009 and 2012. “Nevertheless, a shortage of workers is still rampant among hospitals, indicating the government's lack of knowledge in finance distribution toward medical resources,” CF Director of the Board Hsieh Tian-jen (謝天仁) said.

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