Consumers to support NHI increases

The China Post staff

The Consumers’ Foundation has made a decision to give conditional support for increases in National Health Insurance (NHI) premiums in order to keep the program alive, an official with the private watchdog said yesterday. “The Consumers’ Foundation, with tears in its eyes, is willing to support increases in NHI premiums under three conditions,” said Lee Cheng-hua, head of the group’s health committee. He said the government must promise to solve within two months the NT$20 billion debt local administrations owe in NHI premiums. The NHI law must also be revised within a year to require all civil servants, military servicemen and teachers to pay the same amounts of premiums as ordinary people, he added. He also called on the government to double the tax for cigarette products within a year, which could fetch NT$8 billion annually for the NHI. The marks a U-turn in the foundation’s objection to the Department of Health and National Health Insurance Bureau’s plans to adjust the program’s rates. The foundation last week vehemently opposed the bureau’s proposed hike of NHI co-payments, which are the patients’ share of the medical fees for their treatment. Lee Ming-liang, head of the DOH, yesterday maintained that NHI premiums will also have to be raised to salvage the near-bankrupt program, which has a deficit of more than NT$2 billion each month.

Lee cited the bureau’s estimates as indicating that there will be increases of NT$50 to NT$80 in monthly premiums, with each person actually paying an additional NT$20 to NT$30 per month, and the rest covered by their employers or the government. “Nobody wants to pay more. But if paying a little bit more could keep the NHI program alive, the people will still survive even though they have to pay more,” said Lee. But the foundation urged the DOH to drop its plan for the co-payment adjustment, which it said will add an extra burden to patients with chronic or serious illnesses.