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Taiwan to consider expansion of free health insurance for the elderly

09/07/2023 10:29 PM
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Members of the general public visit a National Health Insurance certified medical establishment in this CNA file photo
Members of the general public visit a National Health Insurance certified medical establishment in this CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 7 (CNA) The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) announced on Thursday that it is looking into the possibility of extending free national health insurance to individuals aged 65 and above who meet specific criteria, including being unemployed and receiving no financial support from family members, with the program slated to begin in 2025.

During a Cabinet press briefing, NHIA Director General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) explained that the initiative would include individuals in the specified age group who are not beneficiaries of health insurance subsidy programs offered by central or local governments, and whose financial means fall below a certain tax threshold.

Shih also added that veterans whose national health insurance is subsidized by the Veterans Affairs Council will not be eligible for the waiver. He estimated that under 700,000 individuals would benefit from such a program.

Health and Welfare Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) told press on Thursday that the estimated cost of such a program would be NT$10 billion (US$312 million) and once the details are approved a budget will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review next year.

Currently, in Taiwan, individuals aged 70 and above with low to moderate incomes receive full health insurance subsidies from 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.

When asked by CNA about the timing of the announced plan, Shih noted that national health insurance policy is under constant assessment.

However, he also admitted that the fact two opposition presidential candidates recently raised related issues prompted the NHIA to consider potential action.

The NHIA's announcement came within days of two related proposals put forward by the opposition presidential candidates earlier this week.

Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) announced on Tuesday that if elected, he would make individuals aged 65 and above eligible for free national health insurance if their household comprehensive income tax rate is below 20 percent.

The following day, Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) presented a similar proposal.

In response to those proposals, Cabinet spokesman Lin Tze-luen (林子倫) cautioned on Thursday that the proposal to waive NHI premiums for seniors aged 65 and above should not be rushed into implementation, as it could potentially reduce funding allocations for health and welfare programs benefiting other vulnerable groups.

(By Lai Yu-chen, Tseng Yi-ning and Chung Yu-chen)

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