Thursday, May 6, 2010

Singles to be “punished” under new health insurance?

Once Taiwan’s second-generation health insurance is implemented in 2012, single people will pay higher premiums according to the Taipei-based Broadcasting Corporation of China. This had led many to cry foul, saying it punishes singles and is discriminatory.

Recently, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan passed major healthcare reforms that will redistribute the burden of premium rates and change the calculation basis from personal income to total household income. About 50-60 percent of Taiwan’s insured will keep the same or lower premiums, while the other half will pay more. Hardest hit will be singles and people earning high incomes with few dependents.

The National Health Insurance Bureau said premiums under the new system are calculated on the basis of total household income, instead of personal income. This was done in the hope that people with more dependents will pay less. Under the current system, a household with an income of NT$50,000 (US$1,600) per month with four family members pays a monthly premium of NT$3,000 (US$95). But, under the new system, they would only pay NT$1,600 (US$50), an average of about NT$400 (US$13) per head. A single person with the same monthly income of NT$50,000, would see his or her premium increase from NT$755 (US$24) to NT$1,600 (US$50), more than double the current rate.

Many citizens have taken to the media to criticize the second-generation health insurance. Li Shi-wei, a single teacher, wrote to the editor of the United Daily News saying that the health insurance increases should not take advantage of single people in Taiwan. It is not reasonable or fair when the same commodity sells for different prices to different individuals just based on their income, said Li.

Regarding the redistribution, Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang said the new system would be fairer for a family with more dependents. In a social insurance system, people with larger incomes should assist those on low incomes and the unemployed, and small families should help big families. Yang said it is not meant as a punishment, nor is it discriminatory.

In an editorial disagreeing with Yang, the United Daily News commented that the government and the general public should give serious thought to Taiwan’s expanding population of singles. The concept of marriage and family is changing and the paper urged the government to adjust their policies to accommodate these ongoing social changes.

As government statistics have clearly shown, there is an increased pattern of late marriage, no marriage, cohabitation without marriage, and increased divorce rates in Taiwan. All of which results in a growing single population. The concept of traditional family is changing. Some demographic scholars have even predicted that singles will become the mainstream in Taiwan.

United Daily News stressed that the government must accurately see the trend of social change and accept that “single is one of the options in life.” In an open society, people should be more tolerant, considerate and be on an equal basis. The paper noted that the distribution of social resources must offer equal opportunities.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.