Ministry of Health considers reforming Taiwan's health insurance program

NHIA director says patients should pay more to prevent medical waste

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National Health Insurance program indirectly causes medical waste. (Facebook photo)

National Health Insurance program indirectly causes medical waste. (Facebook photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In light of the recent scandal involving hospitals taking more patients than they were allowed to, Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) is contemplating making adjustments to the current National Health Insurance (NHI) system.

As a means to limit medical waste in Taiwan, the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) launched a new policy last year to reduce the total number of outpatients in major hospitals by 2 percent. Under this policy, hospitals would not be able to request reimbursements for any extra patients that they treat.

On Wednesday (Dec. 11), the NHIA pointed out that Taipei City Hospital had been underreporting patient numbers in order to meet the 98-percent threshold while receiving government funding for medication, treatment, and consultations. The hospital has since been ordered to return NT$55 million (US$1.8 million) of NHI subsidies to the government, reported ET today.

Director General of the NHIA Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) on Thursday (Dec. 12) submitted an article to the Apple Daily advocating that patients cover a higher proportion of hospital bills. He said that despite the fact that the existing NHI program has been praised for safeguarding the health of Taiwanese citizens, its "cheap" quality has also encouraged a huge amount of medical waste, reported CNA.

Lee stressed that hospitals only share half of the responsibility in reducing unnecessary medical costs and that the Taiwanese population should be educated not to abuse their civil privileges. He added that reforming the NHI system would be a long process and require support from all parts of the society.