Pharmaceutical News
MOHW to consider implementing balance billing to solve drug shortage problem caused by price cut

Reported by Long Pei-Ning from Taipei


NHIA’s frequent price cuts have caused drug shortage problems.  Legislator Su Ching-Chuan worried that low drug price will force original manufacturers to abandon the market in Taiwan.  The MOHW expressed that the supply of essential drugs will not be affected.  The MOHW is considering introducing balance billing as a remedial measure.


The Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee of the Legislative Yuan invited Chiang Been-Huang, the Minister of the MOHW, to brief the Committee on the social care for the mentally disabled and answer the committee members’ questions.


According to Legislator Su Ching-Chuan, the price of the first generation antibiotics was reduced from NT$70 to just NT$17 which is cheaper than a bottled water; and the price of oral iron supplement was cut from NT$5 to NT$1 per tablet.  The low price policy has a huge impact on the livelihood of drug manufacturers; however, the ultimate victim is the patients.


Su expressed that the NHI global budget has an annual growth rate of 2%-3%.  It is much lower than the reasonable range of 4%-6% based on the calculation of twice of the economic growth rate.  Due to the budget constraint, the NHIA cut the prices of original drugs to subsidize the introduction of new medical materials and new drugs.  Yet, low price policy has caused the problem of drug shortage.  Legislator Su suggested the MOHW should consider introducing “balance billing”.


 “Balance billing” means that patients can choose to use expensive products by paying the difference between the fixed reimbursement price and the actual product price.


Chiang Been-Huang, the Minister of the MOHW, pointed out that, to his knowledge, there should not be any drug shortage problems.  However, he has asked the NHIA to investigate and ensure the supply of essential drugs.  The NHIA is formulating a pilot scheme of balance billing, which will be piloted on certain selected drugs.  The NHIA expressed that there are substitutes for the first generation antibiotics and oral iron supplements on the market; and the agency is now collecting comments on balance billing.


【2015-11-18/ Central News Agency 】