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NHI premiums for overseas nationals stirs anger

The China Post news staff--The Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission (OCAC) has criticized the second-generation National Health Insurance program (NHI2) for possible unfair treatment to the nation's citizens living abroad.

There are presently two proposals concerning the premium payment for NHI2, which is set to take effect on Jan. 1 next year, with revisions designed to improve the financial health of the NHI system.

The Executive Yuan and the Department of Health (DOH) are in the final stage of deciding on the new enforcement rules.

One of the possible plans is to require all citizens of the Republic of China to continue pay their health insurance premiums even after they leave Taiwan to live, work or study abroad.

This will increase the financial burden for overseas compatriots but boost the premium income for the insurance system which has been threatened with financial failure due to ballooning expenses.

The new plan is designed to avoid criticisms that many overseas compatriots have been taking advantage of the NHI benefits to have medical treatments in Taiwan without fulfilling their obligations of making adequate payment of premiums for the period when they are out of the nation.

Critics said this has become one of the loopholes that influence the deterioration of the financial standing of the NHI program.

The Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) under the DOH said about 130,000 overseas compatriots received medical treatment after returning to Taiwan with medical costs of NT$170 million paid by the NHI program in 2011.

Yet there is a second proposal for maintaining the present system allowing overseas compatriots to suspend premium payments for the duration of their stay overseas.

They may resume their NHI benefits after returning to Taiwan and making NHI premium payment for three months.

Overseas compatriots will have to make up the payments for premiums owed in the past if they require emergency medical treatments before the NHI benefits are resumed.

The DOH is pushing for he first proposal while the OCAC and most overseas compatriots are lobbying for the second plan to save premium costs for overseas compatriots.

OCAC Chairman Wu Ying-yi said the government should adopt the second plan to keep the system unchanged in consideration of the contributions to the country made by overseas compatriots over the years and to help maintain their dignity.

Wu emphasized that overseas compatriots have made significant contributions to foreign relations with their strong patriotism.

He pointed out that many of the overseas compatriots who returned to Taiwan for medical treatments were actually Taiwan students aged between 20 and 39 studying abroad but received medical services during home visits over summer or winter breaks.

It is not fair to count the medical bills of the students as the medical costs of all overseas compatriots and criticize them for causing financial troubles in the NHI program, Wu said.

Health Insurance not a 'political gift': Group

But an NHI supervision league in the private sector refuted Wu's argument and stressed that all participants in the NHI program should fulfill equal obligations with regular premium payments in order to enjoy equal treatment and benefits.

People of the league recognized the admirable patriotism demonstrated by the overseas compatriots, but said health insurance should not be seen as a “political gift” to patriotic overseas Chinese.

Officials at the BNHI also said the first proposal requiring consecutive premium payments without disruption due to overseas stays complies with the spirit of mutual support and equal sharing of financial burden for the long-term financial viability of the NHI program.

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