Kelly Wu, Special to The China Post
People First Party lawmaker Kao Ming-jiang yesterday criticized the government for planning to issue expensive computerized health insurance cards while claiming that premiums need to be raised to cover increasing losses. “The Bureau of National Health Insurance has already spent NT$4.1 billion to issue the first 20 million cards with integrated circuits (IC),” Kao said. Kao pointed out that a huge amount of money will also have to be spent on the hardware and software needed to use the new IC cards. “If the government has all this money, why are they saying the national health insurance program is losing so much money?” Kao asked. He also called on the government to stop plans to increase the cost of health care, pointing out that new IC cards will have to be issued, at a cost of NT$200 to each person, in the wake of premium rate hikes. The use of IC cards will also threaten the constitutional rights of individuals, including their rights to work and privacy, Kao said. Information contained in the cards will range from medical histories of serious illnesses, such as cancer, sexually transmitted and other contagious diseases, to demographical data, according to Kao. “Anyone with computer skills or an IC card processing machine could easily gain access to someone else’s medical files or alter existing records,” Kao said.
Human rights advocates also vehemently criticized the launch of the cards because patients with some diseases will be deprived of the rights to work, study and receive treatment in hospitals. “I am afraid HIV positive patients will become even more reluctant to go to hospitals because their medical records can be easily accessed through their IC cards,” said Wu Hansen, president of the Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan. Wu said the card will further hamper the control and prevention of AIDS as more and more patients infected with such a disease will refuse to get medical treatment. Issuing IC cards will also increase problems for workers, according to Wu Hai-jui, president of the association of workers. “Tens of thousands of laborers, including myself, have suffered from mental health problems during the current economic downturn. Our jobs could be jeopardized if our bosses get a hold of our sensitive medical records,” Wu said. Wu warned that some workers could end up committing suicide if they find themselves in a position where they are under great pressure but afraid to go to a hospital.