Cigarette tax may help fund NHI: VP

Raising the health tax on cigarettes could be a way to find extra income for the financially troubled National Health Insurance (NHI) program, said Vice Premier Sean Chen yesterday.

Chen said every citizen should support the NHI, which is a mechanism where people can help each other, and its finances should be improved from within by expanding its premium base.

But if outside help is needed, the “most suitable” solution would be raising the health tax on cigarettes, because smoking is bad for the health of smokers and others, the vice premier said.

He added that next year is the time for the cigarette health tax to undergo its biannual adjustment.

The Department of Health (DOH) Tuesday was dealt a heavy blow when lawmakers rejected its bill that sough drastic changes to the NHI’s premium formula.

The DOH is expected tomorrow to submit to the Legislature a revised version of the NHI bill that reportedly will keep the present premium scheme.

The United Evening News said the DOH and the finance ministry are mulling raising the cigarette health tax to fund the NHI.

But health minister Yaung Chih-liang said although such a tax has been a source of income for the NHI, it cannot be a long-term solution.

Chiu Shu-ti, head of the NHI Bureau said experts will be invited to discuss whether the increase should be NT$5, NT$10, or even more, according to the paper.

But she questioned whether it is right to let smokers shoulder the NHI’s financial burden.


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