Medical care in Taiwan is cheap, even for expats, since every Taiwanese national with a Taiwanese ID card or foreigner with an Alien Residency Card must enroll in the system. By the end of 2004, 99% of the population was covered by NHI.
Enrollment is not an option, you can be fined for not joining the system, penalties range from NT$3,000 (about US$100) to NT$15,000 (about US$500). No one may arbitrarily withdraw, unless you lose your insurance eligibility (if Taiwanese give up their citizenship, move abroad or if you let your Alien Resident Certificate expire).
The NHI plan provides access to medical benefits such as emergency care, doctors and dental consultations, maternity care and even traditional Chinese medicine. The card you are given carries a chip so that your medical records are with you wherever you go. Every doctor has access to your previous medical records through the memory chip.
The NHI is paid through premium contributions and co-payments. It costs about US$75 for a family of four per month but often, employers pay for the insurance.
It also allows tax deductions so the more premiums you pay, the bigger the deduction is. If you are going through financial difficulties and cannot pay the premium, you can still receive health care if a doctor thinks you may need hospitalization, you suffer from a chronic illness or it is an emergency.
The NHI provides for cases of poverty as well so that everyone is insured. The filing fees for every NHI card by the insured from the insurer is NT$200. However, it is free of charge under these two conditions:
- When you apply for it for the first time
- When you apply to renew it because it was disabled for any unknown cause that deformed or broke the chip, or because the basic information on the card was misprinted.
All legal residents of Taiwan (including those from Hong Kong and Macau) must be registered in the health insurance program. If you are working, your employer must register you starting the day you are employed. If you are not working, you must apply yourself after a continuous residency of 4 months.
These are the general conditions for enrollment:
- Foreign students can apply for NHI IC Card through their school.
- As a dependent relative (i.e. parents, spouses, or children) unemployed, you must participate in the NHI program through a relative's insurance
- If you are unemployed and you are not dependant on somebody’s insurance, you must enroll through the local administration offices of residence.
- Company chairpersons/owners must enroll in the program through their company.
If you are going to work in Taiwan, it is required that you undergo a health examination that includes an HIV test a month after you arrive in the country.
The NHI covers foreign fishermen under its plan. If you are working for a fishing company while in Taiwan your employer is required to enroll you in the NHI system.