Taiwan has been an invaluable member of the global health community despite its exclusion from the WHO.
The News Lens
By: Jane Pei-Chen Chang and Kyle Kai-Yuan Cheng, Taiwan Insight
What is the status of Taiwan in global health? What is its role in the World Health Organization (WHO)? What efforts have been made by Taiwan to help prevent global disease outbreaks and improve the health care status of global citizens?
From a global perspective, Taiwan boasts respectable medical achievements and an accomplished health system. It was the second country in Asia to provide universal health coverage and the University of Washington recently ranked it 34th out of 195 countries for access and quality of healthcare. Presumably, a country with such expertise in health should be coveted by the global health community and assume an active role. However, Taiwan’s “irregular statehood” has proven to be pernicious in that regards. This is perhaps best illustrated by Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, an organization deeply embedded in statehood-oriented global politics.
Taiwan’s health care system
Despite not being recognized by the WHO as one of the gatekeepers for global health, Taiwan has managed to provide health insurance to 99.9 percent of its population. The current healthcare system, known as National Health Insurance (NHI), was instituted in 1995. NHI is a single-payer compulsory social insurance plan that centralizes healthcare funds for redistribution. One of the highlights of NHI is that it promises equal access to healthcare for all citizens, regardless of social status, race, gender and age. NHI is mainly financed through premiums, which are based on the payroll tax, and is supplemented with out-of-pocket payments and direct government funding. Moreover, Taiwan has better healthcare coverage than most of the countries in the WHO—where the lottery of one’s postcode does not impede access to healthcare—and has set a healthcare model for other countries to follow. Although NHI is not perfect and has flaws that need fixing, the implementation of universal healthcare coverage over the past two decades has helped Taiwan to improve its life expectancy and decreased infant mortality. As of 2018, life expectancy is about 80 years of age and the infant mortality rate is around 4.3 deaths per 1,000 lives. [FULL STORY]