After a month-long battle with birth complications and surgeries, Erica and Bas [surnames deleted upon request] expected to be able to take their twin daughters home from a hospital in southern Taiwan. Instead, the couple were told the newborns could not be discharged until a hospital bill of NT$1.3 million (US$41,000) was paid, because their babies were not covered under Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) policy.

The twins were born on July 12 and rushed to intensive care after doctors discovered the babies were underweight because their umbilical cords had been tangled. On Aug. 8, Erica was told both girls needed surgery to remove tissue that had protruded through their abdominal muscles.

Initially, the hospital charged the couple under NHI regulations, which gives newborns coverage under the mother’s health insurance for the first two months. However, issues with the couple’s Alien Residence Certificates (ARC) prompted the hospital to call the Bureau of National Health Insurance to check if they were indeed covered. The hospital was informed that NHI regulations require foreign babies to stay in Taiwan for six months to be eligible for coverage. The twins were therefore not covered by their mother’s insurance.

After negotiations, the hospital agreed to discharge the twins on Aug. 12, and gave the couple the option of paying the bill over five years.

The couple has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay their hospital bill. The campaign has so far raised US$6,095 of the US$38,000 goal.

“One of the things we love about Taiwan is its National healthcare. It gives us comfort knowing that if one of us were to get in an accident, it would not bankrupt us, as has happened in many cases in the U.S.,” Bas told The News Lens International (TNLI). “However, we find it very unfortunate that an exception to the health insurance laws exists that specifically and only targets newborn babies of foreigners living and working here.”

The Bureau of National Health Insurance confirmed with TNLI that even if the couple stays in Taiwan for the next six months, they would still need to pay the NT$1.3 million hospital bill.

The father has lived in Taiwan for 10 years, and the mother for five years. The couple were planning to leave Taiwan in October but have since applied for an extension to stay in the country until next February.

Contacted for comment today, the hospital said it would need permission from the parents before giving a statement.


PHOTO CREDIT: Erica Brüll-Reinhold and Bas Brüll

A plan to include foreign babies in the national insurance program upon birth was proposed in a 2014 review of the NHI by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. It was criticized by civic groups who said the plan would not change the fact that the NHI rates were unfair to more underprivileged groups.

The Bureau of National Health Insurance told TNLI there are no plans to amend the regulations requiring babies born to foreign nationals to stay in Taiwan over six months to be eligible for coverage.

Some Taiwanese consider the inclusion of foreign nationals in the national health program a key reason behind the NHI's financial difficulties. A draft bill proposed in 2015 to include Chinese students in the NHI drew strong criticism for favoring foreigners over Taiwanese nationals. Chinese students are not covered by the NHI.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White