DOH postpones insurance fee hikes

Kelly Wu, Special to The China Post

Opposition lawmakers urged the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday to postpone an increase in national health insurance fees until the policy could be reviewed by the Legislative Yuan. Under the new plan, people will have to pay fees of between NT$200 to NT$1,500 when receiving treatment at major hospitals and large medical centers, as opposed to a flat flee of NT$150 that is currently charged for each visit. People First Party (PFP) legislator Kao Ming-chin said the DOH should listen to public opinion and discuss the fee hikes with opposition parties before implementing what will likely be an unpopular change.

Koa added that the government would do better to try to ease the financial burden of ordinary citizens by subsidizing medical expenses instead of spending huge amounts of money on a shipment of used weapons from the United States. However, a DOH official said the government will implement the new system despite resounding criticism from opposition lawmakers and non-governmental organizations.

The DOH is authorized to make changes in fee rates without consulting the Legislature, according to Wu Hsien-ming, director of the DOH’s national health insurance task force. “The new policy was designed to reduce wastes of medical resources by encouraging people with minor sicknesses to go to private clinics where the rates will remain unchanged,” according to Wu. Wu said on average less than three percent of people, who tend to tour around hospitals and get unnecessary tests, would have to increase their medical bills by NT$500 each month.

Wu added that the DOH is also considering the possibility of increasing insurance premiums if other ways can’t be found to improve the Bureau of National Health Insurance’s (NHI) financial condition. Wu said the fee hikes, which are expected to save NT$3 billion annually, won’t do much to help the NHI’s deficit, which is increasing at a rate of NT$2 billion per month.

“We also intend to file a lawsuit against the Taipei and Kaohsiung city governments for back-debts of around NT$30 billion in premium payments,” Wu added.