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New NHI designed to ensure fairness: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that although 13 percent of the population will see a premium increase under the Second-Generation National Health Insurance (NHI) program, 87 percent will either be unaffected or see an actual decrease in their payments.

Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta yesterday gave a report on the nation's newly implemented Second-Generation NHI at the Kuomintang's (KMT) weekly Central Standing Committee meeting.

After hearing Chiu's report, the president, who doubles as KMT chairman, said that the Second-Generation NHI was designed on the principle of fairness.

Under the new program, premium rates have been decreased from 5.17 percent to 4.91 percent. Those with additional forms of income, other than their salaries, will be subject to a 2-percent supplementary premium rate, if their additional income amounts to more than NT$5,000 a month.

Insurance payments were previously calculated on the basis of one's payroll, but they now include six different types of nonsalary income.

According to the government's calculation, 13 percent of those insured will see a premium increase, while 87 percent will not be affected.

“Health insurance is a type of social security. If we don't help each other out, (the system) won't be able to continue its existence,” Ma said.

The president pointed out that CNN's Fareed Zakaria did a report on health care in March and listed Taiwan as having one of the best systems in the world.

According to the Cabinet's Department of Health, the Second-Generation NHI will solve the current financial woes of the heath-care system for the five years.

Ma said one of the main reasons the nation's health insurance has been facing problems is because of Taiwan's aging population.

“It would be impossible to fix the entire system at once, but that doesn't mean we don't need to take gradual steps,” said the president. “During these five years, the government will devise a better plan for the future.”

Ma further lauded Chiu and said, “Over the past two years, despite the challenges he faced, the minister has remained optimistic and worked hard.”

“(KMT) Secretary-General Tseng (Yung-chuan) told me many years ago that when he was growing up in Pingtung, if somebody had an accident and was sent to the hospital, he or she would be turned away if they didn't have cash to pay as a guarantee,” Ma said, adding that thanks to national health insurance, tragedies like this no longer happen.

The president went on to stress that the government will not allow the nation's National Health Insurance to collapse.

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