TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Representatives of a collection of international students' rights groups, including students from China, held a press conference yesterday to protest a potential increase in fees that would result from a proposed amendment to the National Health Insurance (NHI) program, leading Taiwanese netizens to respond with intense vitriol online.
The international student representatives complained that as they already have to deal with higher tuition fees, paying more health insurance will only add to their burden. They proposed that health insurance premiums should be based on financial ability, rather than on one's nationality, and that Chinese students should be included into the same system as students from Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas compatriots.
Over 300 foreign students and 50 student organizations have filed a petition that reads "Don't raise health insurance premiums, instead match Chinese student's coverage with that of students from Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas compatriots." The representatives called for a new premium calculation method that would be based on whether a person is employed or has financial support.
The official proposed amendment to the NHI program, which lawmakers are currently hotly debating, would extend coverage to Chinese students, but would raise premiums across the board for all international students in the process.
Under the present system, international students, including those from Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas compatriots, pay a premium of NT$1,249 per month, but the Taiwanese government provides a 40 percent subsidy, so that they only actually pay NT$749 per month.
Chinese students currently get insurance from insurers through their school and pay about NT$3,000 per semester. There are 4 and a half months in a semester, so even with the current subsidy, Chinese students' monthly premiums would go up from NT$666 to NT$749, and without the subsidy, their costs per month would double to NT$1,249.
According to Ministry of Health Statistics, in 2015, there were a total of 30,946 international students, and of that group there were 7,813 Chinese students. That year the students spent a total of NT$373 million in premiums, and their use of medical resources amounted to NT$120 million.
In response to the news of the protest by Chinese and other international students, Taiwanese netizens vented their anger on the popular online forum PTT:
"If you don't have money to pay for insurance, don't come to Taiwan."
"International students who study in Australia have to pay for their own insurance as well, why don't the Chinese exchange students go to Australia to protest as well?"
"If you don't have money why leave your country?
"It's already much cheaper than other countries."
"This is the only law that I agree with since Tsai Ing-wen took office."
"They come to Taiwan to spy on us and milk the system at the same time."
"You have enough cash to study overseas, but you can't afford health insurance."
"F**k, you haven't paid tax, you need to foot the bill, is it that hard to understand?"
"If you don't like it, go to the U.S. and study."
"Go back to Shina, F**k!"
"You're all spies and you still complain about cost."
"You come to Taiwan to spy and then use Taiwanese health insurance, eat s**t!"