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Foundation urges government to reduce NHI premiums under new system

2012/09/12 22:22:40

Taipei, Sept. 12 (CNA) The Consumers' Foundation urged the government Wednesday to keep its promise to reduce National Health Insurance (NHI) premium rates under the proposed second-generation program.

Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta said earlier this year the Department of Health (DOH) had proposed reducing premium rates under the new NHI program from 5.17 percent to 4.91 percent of the insured amount of a person's monthly salary.

Under the new program, a supplementary premium of 2 percent will be introduced in cases where an insured individual has extra income besides a regular monthly salary, the department said.

However, the Bureau of National Health Insurance suggested in a recent meeting that the 5.17 percent rate remain unchanged. The Cabinet will make the final decision after reviewing a DOH proposal on the new program.

In response, the foundation said that the bureau's proposal went against the DOH's previous statement on slashing premiums.

Hsieh Tien-jen, a foundation board member, urged the DOH to reduce the regular premium rates under the new program because the minister has promised to help lower the financial burden of the disadvantaged.

In addition, Hsieh argued it was unfair the rich and the poor paid the same premium rates because wealthier insurants use up far more medical resources than poorer insurants.

The 20 percent of insurants whose incomes are the lowest received medical care worth an average of NT$32,804 (US$1,109) in 2000, according to Hsieh.

For the same group of people, the average amount of medical care rose only 4.26 percent to NT$34,202 in 2009, compared with NT$73,742 for the 20 percent of wealthiest insurants that year, up 42.85 percent from 2000, Hsieh said.

In other words, the NHI program spends a greater amount of its resources on more affluent insurants, but does not charge them higher premium rates, which is unfair, Hsieh said.

The new system has been devised to reduce NHI revenue shortfalls. Since the program was launched in 1995, its main source of revenue has been premiums calculated on salaries.

In recent years, this model has not kept pace with rising costs, and many people have branded it as unfair.

The health department subsequently came up with the idea of charging a supplementary premium that would tap into previously untouched forms of income, such as professional fees, rental income, and stock dividends.

Responding to the criticism, Huang San-quei, head of the bureau, said the supplementary premium will bring in an estimated NT$20.8 billion in revenue.

However, Huang said, the NHI program still suffers severe financial woes, and the extra revenue can cover its expenses for no more than two weeks.

The new NHI program is slated to take effect January 2013.

(By Yang Shu-min and Kendra Lin)