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KMT presidential contender vows expansion of free health insurance for elderly

09/05/2023 10:26 PM
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Kuomintang (KMT) presidential contender Hou Yu-ih (right) shake hands with senior supporters following his talks about health care coverage for senior citizens. CNA photo Sept 5, 2023
Kuomintang (KMT) presidential contender Hou Yu-ih (right) shake hands with senior supporters following his talks about health care coverage for senior citizens. CNA photo Sept 5, 2023

Taipei, Sept. 5 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential contender Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) said Tuesday that if elected, individuals aged 65 and above will be eligible for free national health insurance if their household's comprehensive income tax rate is below 20 percent.

In addition, indigenous people aged 55 and above will also have their insurance fully subsidized if their household's comprehensive income tax rate is below the threshold, Hou, who also serves as New Taipei mayor, said at a community center in Taipei City.

Currently in Taiwan, the health insurance of elderly individuals aged 70 and above with low to moderate incomes is fully subsidized by the central government, according to the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, elderly individuals aged 65 to 69 with low to moderate incomes receive subsidies determined by local authorities based on their financial situation.

According to Hou's campaign office, health insurance subsidies for individuals aged 65 to 69 are offered in Keelung, New Taipei, Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, each with different tax thresholds.

Health insurance subsidies are also available for indigenous people aged 55 to 64 in Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, and Tainan, each with a different tax requirement.

This means that individuals between the ages of 65 and 69, as well as indigenous people aged 55 to 64, have to depend on local government assistance, according to Hou.

Hou estimates that around 4 million senior citizens will benefit from this program, with an approximate cost of NT$16 billion (US$576 million).

The cost of the program will be covered by his proposed policy of allocating 8 percent of GDP to national healthcare expenditure, Hou added.

In response to Hou's proposal, Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) noted that health insurance subsidies for those aged 65 and above are already in place in six major cities and some counties.

However, he said consideration has to be given to the importance of maintaining fiscal discipline while considering the utilization of health insurance funds for elderly care, without reducing allocations for health and welfare funding for other vulnerable groups.

The Premier added that the social welfare budget for the next year could reach as high as NT$790 billion.

On Tuesday, Health and Welfare Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) also weighed in on the issue, expressing concern that expanding fully-subsidized health care coverage could increase the burden on the younger generation.

Taiwan is on the verge of becoming a super-aging society, with over 4 million elderly individuals currently aged 65 or older, he explained.

Given the country's declining birth rate, the number of young people contributing to health insurance premiums and other taxes is likely to continue to decrease, according to Hsueh.

(By Liu Kuan-ting, Chen Chieh-ling , Pan Tzu-yu and Chung Yu-chen)

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