Taiwanese health system ideal but ailing?

For many Taiwanese abroad, it is natural to still pay universal healthcare insurance in Taiwan and go back to the country to see a doctor or dentist in case of severe illness or injury or mere routine checkup, given the quality and affordability of such services.

Taiwan adopted the national health insurance system in 1995, which provides state-administered mandatory coverage.

People in the lowest income category earning NT$26,400 (P47,725) monthly pay around P740 per month, while their employers pay P2,325; the government, P387.

The most commonly used benefit under the universal healthcare system is free dental examination each year and teeth scaling every six months.

Foreigners who live in Taiwan also enjoy the benefit as long as they are paying the insurance.

Because of the cost of dental services in many countries, oftentimes reaching thousands of pesos, many rather opt going back to Taiwan to take the self-same dental procedures and maximize their time off to visit friends and family.

For those upward of 40 years old, the system provides free physical checkups every three years, including protein in urine test and eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate), AST, ALT, Creatinine, blood sugar and blood fat tests to know the state of their livers and kidneys.

There’s also a free cancer screening. Women, who are 30 years old and up, can take pap smears every three years and mammography tests every other year, gratis.

Fecal occult blood tests every other year are provided free of charge for people who are over 50 years old to see if they are in danger of suffering colorectal cancers. Smokers who are 30 years of age or older take oral mucosal checkups to prevent oral cancers.

Unfortunately, some are exploiting the healthcare resources, such as going to the doctors too often or getting too much medicine but not using them.

Taiwan’s healthcare system is also reeling from lack of workers because of the country’s shrinking and aging population.

According to Dr. James C. T. Hsueh of the National Taiwan University, Taiwan experienced a sustained decline in fertility rates and increased life expectancy that resulted in population ageing.

But, due to the country’s fast-declining fertility rate in recent decades, the pace of aging has been continuously accelerating–Taiwan became an “ageing society” in 1993, an “aged society” in 2018 and will become a “super-aged” society in 2025.

In 2022, Taiwan recorded a historical low of 138,986 births; the population’s natural increase rate, -2.93 per thousand—the third year of negative growth.

While the West is rolling out a string of incentives to attract healthcare professionals, including Filipinos, Taiwan also needs to better its working conditions to attract and retain those who are willing to devote their service to the industry and help more patients.

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