Reported by Lin Hui-Cin from Taipei
Earlier this year, the MOHW estimated that the NHI would face a deficit of NT$11bn this year. However, the NHI data revealed a shortage of NT$12.44bn at the end of October. The annual deficit will definitely keep growing until the end of December. This is the first time that the NHI has a budget shortfall since 2009.
The NHI faced its first budget deficit of NT$31.7bn in 2009. The next year, there was a budget surplus of NT$18.5bn. The surplus has been growing due to the implementation of the NHI supplementary premium in 2013, and reached NT$100bn in 2015.
However, the former President, Ma Ying-Jeou, made a few benefit & welfare policies before last year’s presidential election in order to boost his popularity. Those policies include a cut in NHI premium rate from 4.91% to 4.69%, a cut in NHI supplementary premium rate from 2% to 1.91%, a higher NHI tax threshold from NT$2000 to NT$5000, etc. These policies have contributed to a fall in the NHI revenue, eating away the NHI budget surplus from NT$102.9bn in 2015 to just NT$18.6bn in 2016, and resulting in a deficit in 2017.
Some NHI Board members expressed their concerns. They predicted an annual shortfall of NT$11bn. However, the actual figure will be higher because it has already reached NT$12.4bn at the end of October.
Chen Chen-Huei, a financial expert of the NHIA, expressed that the revenue from supplementary premium on dividends paid in December would give the NHI finance a boost. He expected the annual deficit could be maintained under NT$11bn. The NHI still has a safety reserve of NT$23.5bn which could secure the NHI finance until 2021.
Chu Hsieh-Kuang, the Vice CEO of the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation, suggested that the NHI should change the premium base from personal income to household income so as to expand the fee base and make the system fair and sustainable. This is also one of President Tsai’s election campaign pledges. The authority should not just focus on the increase in the co-payment for drugs and in-hospital services, while ignoring the most effective and fundamental measure.
Dr Chen Shi-Chung, the MOHW Minister, said in an interview that household-income-based-premium system is a possible solution. By linking NHI premium with the household general income, it will be fairer than the existing practice. However, there are still some loopholes need to be closed.
【2017-12-10/ Liberty Times】