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Taiwan to extend NHI coverage to Chinese students from February 2024

11/23/2023 03:44 PM
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An NHI office in Taipei. CNA file photo
An NHI office in Taipei. CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) Chinese nationals studying in Taiwan are to be covered under the country's National Health Insurance (NHI) program, with the policy likely to be effective from February 2024, Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said Thursday.

During a Cabinet meeting, Chen approved a plan by the health ministry to extend NHI eligibility to the students, on the basis that "the right to health is a universal value and a basic human right," Cabinet spokesperson Lin Tze-luen (林子倫) told a press conference after the meeting.

Under the plan, Chinese nationals who have been enrolled at a Taiwanese university for at least six months will be eligible for NHI coverage -- as is already the case with other foreign national students, Chen said, according to Lin.

The new rules will likely take effect from Feb. 1, 2024, Chen said.

The long-discussed proposal was propelled back into the spotlight earlier this month, following comments by Vice President and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential nominee Lai Ching-te (賴清德).

At a DPP party meeting, Lai said he supported extending NHI coverage to Chinese students, as well as canceling a rule that requires foreign students to be in Taiwan for six months before they can join the NHI system.

Following Lai's remarks, Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) confirmed that "initial planning" was underway for both policies, which will not require legislative approval.

According to government data, the number of Chinese students studying in Taiwan reached a high of 41,975 in 2006, but dropped to around 25,000 by 2019 and plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to travel restrictions on both sides.

This year, after China resumed allowing students enrolled at Taiwanese universities to apply for postgraduate programs, 378 applied and were accepted, according to the Ministry of Education.

A total of 2,127 Chinese students are currently enrolled in degree programs at Taiwanese universities, according to the ministry.

(By Lai Yu-chen and Matthew Mazzetta)

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