The Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) will have no choice but to take out loans to the tune of NT$20 billion (US$610 million) from banks this year to keep the national health insurance program operational, the bureau chief said yesterday.
Fielding questions at the Legislative Health, Environment and Social Welfare Committee, BNHI President Chu Tze-min said the national health insurance program is expected to face a shortfall of about NT$2 billion per month, which will cause a shortfall of at least NT$24 billion for the entire year.
Chu said the shortfall will temporarily be solved by borrowing, but in the long run, the spiraling debts will have to be paid with money generated from the collection of higher levels of health insurance premiums. Also speaking at the legislative committee session, Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mao was tightlipped about whether and when health insurance premiums will be hiked. Legislator Lai Hsin-yuan asked Hou and Chu if the BNHI plans to hike the premiums after the legislative election in December this year.
Lai said that since running the national health insurance program in the red, the BNHI has shifted its financial burden onto hospitals and clinics, which have in turn reduced the quality of their medical services in order to keep their heads above water. Chu denied this, saying that quality of service has not suffered. Chu said that despite financial difficulties, the BNHI has managed to increase the budget reserved for health insurance payments to hospitals and clinics by an average of 5 percent per year, leaving no room for health institutions to compromise their services.