Bureau to ask patients with chronic illnesses to pay more for ER service
By Lauly Li,The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Bureau of Health National Insurance announced recently that they plan to ease overcrowded emergency rooms by requesting patients with chronic diseases shoulder an average of NT$1,000 per emergency visit.
March 3, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The policy is expected to affect around 5.3 million people.
According to Department of Health (DOH) statistics, in 2012 there were 6.5 million people who underwent emergency treatments. Twenty percent of the patients (around 1.3 million) were classified with a health status at class four or five, neither of which constitutes an emergency, the bureau said.
Among the 1.3 million patients, 70 percent of them walked into the emergency rooms, the bureau said.
The cost of emergency treatments is more expensive than outpatient medical expenses, said bureau chief Huang San-kuei (黃三桂), thus the bureau hopes the potential policy will improve the quality of emergency rooms.
The bureau said that according to current policy, a chronic disease patient who possesses prescriptions only needs to pay registration fees to obtain medication.
In light of improper medical treatment expenses and medication waste, the bureau said they plan to amend the current policy and request chronic diseases patients to shoulder an additional NT$200 for their regular prescriptions.
Chen Jih-chang (陳日昌), director of the Taiwan Academy of Emergency Department Management (台灣急診管理學會), said Taiwan's emergency treatment fees are cheaper compared with other countries, thus it is reasonable to raise the charges.
There are many causes of overcrowded emergency rooms in Taiwan, Chen said. Many hospitals categorize patients' health status upon registration in the emergency room and prioritize the inspection order of the patients.
Chen said, therefore, that even if the patient goes for emergency treatment, the patient will have to wait — much like going to an ordinary outpatient department.
Huang said the bureau will send the proposal to the People's Health Insurance Committee (全民健康保險會) for discussion. If the policy is passed, the bureau will decide on the date for the policy to go into effect.
Eva Teng (滕西華), National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance (民間監督健保聯盟) spokesperson, said it is against the National Health Insurance Act to request chronic disease patients to pay the full cost of emergency treatment.