Liberty Times: Taxpayers should not foot the bill for Chinese students

A bill to include Chinese students in Taiwan's National Health Insurance (NHI) program passed a committee-level review in the Legislative Yuan Thursday. Public opinion polls, however, indicate that over 70 percent of people in Taiwan are against the plan. The reasons behind their opposition are easy to understand. First, Chinese students do not pay taxes in Taiwan and are not considered "nationals." Including them in the insurance scheme is not in line with its name as a "national" program. Second, unless Chinese students are made to pay the full premium, their inclusion in the program will cost the state NT$70 million per year in premium subsidies. Such generosity toward Chinese students is unacceptable to the local people, given that the government has been using every possible means, such as charging a supplementary premium, to squeeze money out of people's pockets to try to ease the program's worsening financial crisis. President Ma Ying-jeou's administration has argued that denying Chinese students health insurance coverage will impede the country's efforts to recruit and retain talent. In fact, since Taiwan universities opened their doors to students from China in 2010, the number of Chinese nationals enrolled in degree programs in Taiwan has been multiplying, from just 928 then to more than 5,000 now. If those enrolled in short-term programs are counted, there were 25,000 Chinese nationals studying in Taiwan in 2013 alone. This demonstrates that insurance coverage is not a consideration for Chinese students when deciding whether to come to Taiwan. Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi, meanwhile, said that the inclusion of Chinese students will not increase the NHI's financial burden but instead may increase its revenue. This is a most preposterous statement. Although the students, because of their age, are not expected to have high health care costs, their inclusion in the program will immediately cost taxpayers NT$70 million a year. Wang also pointed to China's inclusion of Taiwanese students in basic city-specific health insurance programs a year ago and said Taiwan should reciprocate. Again, this is a poor comparison because such city-specific insurance covers only local medical spending, while the NHI covers both local and overseas spending. The insurance needs of Chinese students can be met by group insurance offered by private companies. The government should not use taxpayers' money to subsidize Chinese students. (Editorial abstract -- Sept. 26, 2014) (By Y.F. Low)