Cash-strapped health program beset by serious conditions


TAIPEI — Some 960,000 patients labeled as being in serious condition use up over 25 percent of the health resources meant to serve all of Taiwan’s 23 million strong population, according to a critical report released by the top government supervisory body on Wednesday.

The report from the Control Yuan states that the ever-increasing number of Major Illness/Injury Certificates given out to patients is a burden on the already cash-strapped National Health Insurance (NHI) system.

In the report, Control Yuan member Huang Huang-hsiung singled out the Department of Health (the forerunner to the current Ministry of Health and Welfare) for continually expanding the list of illnesses and injuries that can qualify a patient for one of the certificates. The list stands at 30 different conditions, up from the previous 16, he said.

The number of issued certificates, which entitle holders to broad medical subsidies and other benefits, has also grown from just 217,960 in 1995 — when the NHI system was initiated — to 961,265 last year, he said.

Those serious condition patients used NT$155.84 billion (US$5.22 billion) in medical resources in 2012, as opposed to just NT$41.6 billion in 1997.

As a result, just 3.86 percent of insured citizens are taking up 27.56 percent of NHI payments, he said.

Huang’s report also expressed concerns over the public’s frequent use of hospitals, prescriptions and check-ups, calling on the health ministry to work out measures to limit the overburdening of the health insurance system.