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Updated 1 Aug 2012

If you’re considering a move to Taiwan and, like me, you’re disabled, you may be interested in healthcare in Taiwan, from how it works to what kind of care to expect. I suffer from Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, and while there is no treatment regimen for this form of MD it presents certain problems that require medical care. So, as a result, I have had an excellent look at the quality of healthcare provided in Taiwan.

I want to start with an overview of the health care system. Taiwan has a form of socialized medical care. The healthcare system is run through the Bureau of National Health, Executive Yuan. (Executive Yuan means that it is run through the executive branch of the government, as opposed to the legislative or judicial branches.) The programme is mandatory. Every Taiwanese National with a Taiwanese ID card or foreigner with an Alien Resident Card must enrol in the system. There are even fines for not enrolling in the system, which range from NTD 3,000 (about US$100) to NTD 15,000 (about US$500)

Every participant receives a medical card that must be presented to prove that you are enrolled and to receive the benefits, but the card is more than that. It also carries a chip so that your medical records go with you wherever you go. Every doctor you see has access to all our medical records through the memory chip in your card. The system has a monthly charge of about US$75 for a family of four. In most cases, employers pay for the insurance. There is a co-pay that’s dependent on what you are seeing the doctor about, but in my experience, it has been minimal.

If you become sick you can see a doctor at either the local clinic or a nearby hospital. Co-pays at clinics are usually lower than the hospitals but the quality of care at clinics can vary. The hospitals are modern and often staffed with doctors who speak some English (many have been educated in the US or UK).

 

National Medical Insurance (Chuan Bao) covers the following services:

  • All routine medical procedures

  • Checkups and follow-ups

  • Dental

  • Vision and eye care

  • Hospital care

  • Prenatal and birth care

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Physical Therapy

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chiropractic care

 

The NHI does not cover the following:

  • Vaccinations

  • Sex change surgery

  • Infertility or birth control procedures

  • Over-the-counter medications

  • Eye glasses, wheelchairs, etc.

  • Hearing aids

  • Substance abuse/addiction recovery programmes

 

When you need medication, you see the doctor and he/she prescribes it to you. When you get to the pharmacy you only receive the amount necessary for the specific visit. For example, if you suffer from Gouty Arthritis the doctor will prescribe enough medication for that specific instance. If it flares up three weeks later you have to visit the doctor again for another round of medication. This serves two purposes: it keeps people from abusing their medication, but it also reduces the amount that the system has to purchase. If you have a recurring situation it can be a bit inconvenient.

If you require physical therapy a doctor must refer you to a specialist. The doctor will prescribe six sessions at a cost of NTD 300 (US$10) or NTD 50 (US$1.60) each. In order to continue, you must go back to the doctor and he/she will prescribe six more sessions.

Dental care is provided almost free of charge. There is only a registration fee of NTD 100 (US$3) per visit. In a visit only one service can be provided. If you need multiple fillings, for example, you must return for each cavity to be filled and pay your fee each time. Dental care is very modern and painless. My daughter, who has always been deathly afraid of dentists, doesn’t mind going and even getting work done.

If you have to stay in the hospital for long-term care you pay 5 percent of the cost for the first 30 days, the percentage increases after that to a maximum of NTD 26,000 (US$875) No matter how long the stay.

You can see the advantages of medical care in Taiwan for disabled people. Unfortunately, Taiwan is not as disabled friendly in other areas. If you are Taiwanese there are some benefits that are provided for disabled people. However, because of the reciprocity requirements of the government, if your home country doesn’t provide benefits directly to Taiwanese nationals then those services are not provided for you.

For example, a handicapped parking placard in Taiwan carries benefits in fuel tax and vehicle registration fee reductions. In California, there is no reduction in registration fees. So if you’re from California you cannot receive a handicapped-parking placard in Taiwan. It’s really not a big thing though, because with the exception of large shopping facilities there are few handicapped parking spots available. In fact, there isn’t much parking available at all.

Most disabled people travel by scooter. You can buy scooters here with extra wheels in the back for stability, or even that you can roll your wheelchair into and travel in your chair. I’m not talking about little electric mobility scooters, either; I’m talking about 125cc road scooters. They are very convenient because you can usually park right at the door of the place you want to visit. Scooters can be modified for about NTD 18,000 (US$600) and up. It depends on what you want to do.

Many restaurants are two or three stories up and there are usually not elevators. There are few access ramps and many places have stairs with no handrail. So doing things in Taiwan can be a challenge. But I’ve found that people are eager to be helpful and will go out of their way to help you get what you need.

I’ve lived in Taiwan for three years and have enjoyed the experience. I would recommend that a disabled person visit Taiwan for a few weeks before making a permanent move to Taiwan, but I also wouldn’t let my disability get in the way of experiencing life in Taiwan.

Chris Banducci Our Expat Expert

Chris Banducci is a pastor and missionary in Taiwan. He has, at other times of his life, been a white-water rafter, rock climber and adventurer. Twenty-six years of living with Muscular Dystrophy may have weakened his muscles but not his spirit. In 1992, he converted to Jesus Christ, stepped out of the corporate world of Solid Waste Recycling and into full-time ministry. He pioneered a church in Riverside, California for the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship and is now engaged in the same endeavor in Taoyuan City, Taiwan.  He writes on the culture, religion, tradition, and day-to-day life in Taiwan.

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