Taiwan health minister mulls national health insurance reforms

Chen Shih-chung may tackle ‘impossible task’ of raising NHI premiums for some

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Problem of insufficient funding in NHI system has added burden to Taiwan's economy. 

Problem of insufficient funding in NHI system has added burden to Taiwan's economy.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After demonstrating outstanding leadership skills and earning accolades as Taiwan's tireless protector during the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said he wanted to tackle the "impossible task" of reforming the country's national health insurance (NHI) program.

During an interview with UDN Saturday (May 16), Chen confessed that he would like to take on the challenge of raising NHI premiums to ease the burden the system has added on the nation's economy. He said the problem of insufficient funding in the NHI system has long been known to previous governments, but no officials have succeeded in resolving the issue.

Despite reluctance from officials to deal with the touchy subject, Chen pointed out that the program is expected to run out of reserve funds as soon as next year. He said the program's expenditures have outpaced its revenue for the last two years and that he planned to educate the Taiwanese citizens about the urgency of raising NHI premiums.

Chen said he was well aware of the fact that several health officials, including former Health Minister Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), have stepped down after attempting the politically unpopular move. However, he emphasized that the level of the premium raise is negotiable and that the government would like to maintain the system's objective of providing affordable health services to all Taiwanese citizens.

The health minister shared his initial thoughts on the possible amendments and said he is considering a mechanism to exclude underprivileged citizens and patients with critical illness from the cost hikes. As for the general public, Chen said he is planning to have citizens cover more of their medical bills once they visit the hospitals more than the national average.