Pharmaceutical News
Chen Shih-Chung warns the NHI is digging into its safety reserve

Talking in the 2020 NHI National Conference, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung reiterated the importance of investment in health.  He stressed that the NHI is consuming its reserve fund.  The society must address the issues of NHI finance and a premium increase in order to maintain the healthcare quality and to ensure the nation’s welfare.

The NHI Board estimated that the NHI safety reserve could only sustain the NHI until the end of 2021.  However, the public, beset with the financial strain caused by the pandemic, are against the idea of a premium hike.  Minister Chen stressed the importance of investing in health especially during the outbreak of a pandemic in order to safeguard the nation’s health.  However, he was aware that the decision needs to be based on the public’s consensus. 

According to Minister Chen, the NHI finance is now at its full stretch.  The actual NHI expenditure growth rate was 4%, higher than the original estimate of 2%.  Taiwan's average remaining life is similar to that of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, and the quality of healthcare is excellent in Taiwan; however, the health spending in Taiwan only accounts for about 6.5% of the overall GDP, far lower than the OECD’s average of 10%.  The NHI is facing a challenge of maintaining the healthcare quality at a low budget.

MInister Chen mentioned that to evaluate the performance of a corporation, one needs to look at its capital expenditure.  This should apply to the NHI, which is underinvestment and now survives on its safety reserve.

Dr Huang Li-Min, the Superintendent of the National Taiwan University Children Hospital, supported an increase in the NHI premium and co-payment.  By strengthening the concept of co-payment, the public will use the NHI resources more sensibly and carefully. 

It is understood that the NHIA is working towards the direction of introducing an increase in the co-payment for drugs and tests and scrapping the co-payment exemption granted to repeated prescriptions for chronic diseases.  The NHIA hopes the concept of user fee would somehow lessen the overall financial impact on the general public.  It will be discussed in the next NHI Board meeting.

Chou Ying-Cheng, the President of the Taiwan Society of Health Economics, expressed that Taiwan needs to increase the investment in healthcare especially under the threat of a pandemic.  He didn’t think that a premium increase should be controversial.  Without public funds, patients will have to go for private treatments to access new health technologies, Chou said.

Ting Yi-Ming, the Spokesman of the Executive Yuan, expressed that the Executive Yuan, at the moment, does not have any stance on the NHI premium hike.  The NHI Board will meet in November and then submit their conclusions to the Executive Yuan.  The Executive Yuan will then consider the NHI incomes and expenses and make the final decision.

【2020-10-04 / United Daily 】