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Experts back health insurance coverage for Chinese students
Central News Agency
2014-02-15 09:47 PM
Taipei, Feb. 15 (CNA) Taiwanese citizens and foreign residents enjoy affordable, quality healthcare under the broad National Health Insurance (NHI) program, but coverage is not extended to the 20,000-30,000 Chinese students pursuing studies in Taiwan. Their inclusion is something that Yeh Ching-chuan, a former health minister, and his panel of experts responsible for reviewing the insurance program are expected to recommend in an official report due to be completed in April. Doing so would not be simple, however. Before Chinese students can receive the NHI coverage extended to other foreign students, the government will need to amend a law governing cross-Taiwan Strait relations to allow Chinese students to receive resident certificates, Yeh said. Wu Ming-hsien, an associate professor of healthcare administration at Asia University, said that including Chinese students would likely not increase the burden on the NHI program because as students, they are young and mostly in good health. The 500,000 mostly young foreign residents covered by the insurance scheme pay more into it than they use, he said. He noted that the system has been made more financially sound by closing loopholes that allow people to abuse the right to stop paying NHI premiums while living abroad. Since 2013, the second-generation NHI program allows Taiwanese nationals to suspend coverage for up to two years if outside of the country for over six months. They are, however, required to pay premiums for a period of at least three months before being allowed to suspend coverage again. A national who is overseas for over two years can only rejoin the NHI program after having returned for six months. Wu said that between January and June of last year, 77,000 people who had been overseas for longer than six months returned to Taiwan and restored their NHI, including 18,000 people who left the country again after receiving medical care. While those 18,000 used NT$71 million-worth of NHI resources, they paid NT$75 million in premiums, he noted. (By Chen Ching-fang and Y.F. Low)
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