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August 24, 2017

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2nd-gen health insurance to kick off '13

The second-generation National Health Insurance program will be put into practice on Jan. 1, 2013, although details concerning how to collect supplementary premiums and other related issues have yet to be settled, Minister Chiu Wen-ta of the Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) said at a legislative session yesterday.

Chiu made the remarks when delivering a report at the Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee meeting of the Legislative Yuan on the DOH's preparations for the implementation of the new National Health Insurance system.

The new health insurance system aims to include income other than salaries as the base for the premium fee. By collecting 2 percent of income other than salaries, the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) can get more money to finance the system, improve the quality of medical services and lower the percentage BNHI collects from salaries.

The DOH has submitted to the Executive Yuan four editions of drafts and evaluations based on four salary rates: 4.91 percent, 5 percent, 5.05 percent, and 5.17 percent, stated Chiu. The current premium rate on monthly salaries of insured individuals is set at 5.17 percent.

Chiu said that the DOH is still soliciting opinions from various sectors concerning which of the four rates should be adopted for regular National Health Insurance premiums payable by the insured individuals.

Under the new NHI program, a supplementary premium of 2 percent will be charged on income outside regular salaries, such as interest, professional fees, rent and bonuses, etc. Whether the minimum amount of such income subject to the 2 percent supplementary premium rate will be set at NT$2,000 or NT$5,000 will be determined after the DOH brings into consideration the opinions of experts in related sectors, according to Chiu.

In addition, another controversial issue concerns whether local people should remain excluded from the NHI program for periods when they reside outside of Taiwan. The issue remains to be tackled but the DOH has proposed that all nationals should be covered by the NHI system and pay the NHI premium, Chiu noted.

In response, several lawmakers expressed concern that the BNHI could only collect a little more than NT$20 billion in premiums from nonsalary income. For instance, lawmaker Lin Shih-chia of the Taiwan Solidarity Union said that the ambiguity of the definition on some nonsalary incomes such as bonuses and the uncertainty of whether stock dividends should be included in nonsalary revenue subject to 2 percent supplementary premium rate would make it difficult for the BNHI to collect supplementary premiums.

Lawaker Chen Jie-ru of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party voiced her worries that the second-generation National Health Insurance might be a short-lived one, given the increasing difficulty in calculating and collecting supplementary premiums from nonsalary income.

Another DPP lawmaker, Liu Chien-kuo, said if the supplementary premium income fails to finance the NHI system as it is intended, the government shouldn't boost the premium rate on insured monthly salaries and instead should cover the shortfall on its own.

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