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Experts offer insights on fixing Taiwan's NHI

Experts offer insights on fixing Taiwan's NHI

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) As Taiwan's work force shrinks at a pace of about 180,000 per year, a number of experts including former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (???) on Monday provided insights on how the government can prevent the National Health Insurance (NHI) program from going bust in about 10 years as the number of paying contributors diminish. At a press event marking the 20th anniversary of the NHI's implementation, Yaung described Taiwan's population structure as an upside-down triangle where the elderly outnumber the young. Beginning next year, members of the post-war generation born after the 1950s are expected to hit the age of 65, with about 180,000 of them retiring yearly, said Yaung. According to Yaung, with its estimated reserve funds of about NT$123.3 billion (US$3.9 billion), the NHI is capable of withstanding the impacts of Taiwan's diminishing work force for 5 more years, but will not survive another decade amid rapidly mounting costs which has been expanding at about NT$30 billion annually. Yaung said that the fruits of economic growth have been overly concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, resulting in an imbalance between income levels and tax and NHI premium obligations, with the heavy burden being shouldered by the working people. He urged efforts at devising a third-generation NHI program that uses the household gross income as the base for premium contributions. Recounting his experiences in devising the NHI's first-generation system 20 years ago, Hsiao Ching-lun (???), a Taiwanese professor teaching at Harvard University, said that because the program relies on workers for premium payments, it is suffering from inadequate fee contributions. Hsiao also said that public and privately-run hospitals have been competing against each other, a situation that is not helpful for promoting efficient operations. Uwe Reinhardt, a professor at Princeton who had also participated in the design of the NHI, urged the government to provide free medical care for children to encourage people to raise more kids. Reinhardt said that similar policies have been introduced in Germany and Switzerland, which have also seen declining birth rates. Reinhardt recommended that Taiwan expand the implementation of the diagnosis-related group system, where the same price should be charged to patients for the same treatment of the same ailment, to prevent the squandering of medical resources. The government can also improve the situation by increasing the health care spending as a percentage of the GDP, as part of its economic stimulus program. Despite its woes, Reinhardt said Taiwan's 20-year NHI program is the realization of a policy with great visions, unlike the unfortunate fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of the U.S., better known as Obamacare. (By Chen Ching-fang and Ted Chen)


Updated : 2021-09-26 12:03 GMT+08:00