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Open Access Research article

Health insurance coverage, medical expenditure and coping strategy: evidence from Taiwan

Kuangnan Fang1, Ben-Chang Shia2 and Shuangge Ma13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Statistics, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China

2 Department of Statistics and Information Science, FuJen Catholic University, Taiwan, R.O.China

3 School of Public Health, Yale University, 60 College ST, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:442  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-442

Published: 3 December 2012

Abstract

Background

The health insurance system in Taiwan is comprised of public health insurance and private health insurance. The public health insurance, called “universal national health insurance” (NHI), was first established in 1995 and amended in 2011. The goal of this study is to provide an updated description of several important aspects of health insurance in Taiwan. Of special interest are household insurance coverage, medical expenditures (both gross and out-of-pocket), and coping strategies.

Methods

Data was collected via a phone call survey conducted in August and September of 2011. A household was the unit for survey and data analysis. A total of 2,424 households covering all major counties and cities in Taiwan were surveyed.

Results

The survey revealed that households with smaller sizes and higher incomes were more likely to have higher coverage of public and private health insurance. In addition, households with the presence of chronic diseases were more likely to have both types of insurance. Analysis of both gross and out-of-pocket medical expenditure was conducted. It was suggested that health insurance could not fully remove the financial burden caused by illness. The presence of chronic disease and inpatient treatment were significantly associated with higher gross and out-of-pocket medical expenditure. In addition, the presence of inpatient treatment was significantly associated with extremely high medical expenditure. Regional differences were also observed, with households in the northern, central, and southern regions having less gross medical expenditures than those on the offshore islands. Households with the presence of inpatient treatment were more likely to cope with medical expenditure using means other than salaries.

Conclusion

Despite the considerable achievements of the health insurance system in Taiwan, there is still room for improvement. This study investigated coverage, cost, and coping strategies and may be informative to stakeholders of both basic and commercial health insurance.

Keywords:
Taiwan; Health insurance coverage; Medical expenditure; Coping strategy