Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My First Encounter with Taiwan National Health Insurance

As you may or may not know, everyone in Taiwan is given national health insurance. This even applies to foreign residents who are legally working in the country.

The process of getting health insurance is a rather simple one; I actually didn't have to do any work for it at all. As soon as I was hired at my company, they got me an Alien Resident Card (ARC) and my National Health Insurance Card followed within a couple of days. Just like that!

(this picture comes from tealit.com)

This weekend, I had an unfortunate accident: I walked into the wall in my apartment very late Saturday night. It was dark and I was tired..... It's a mistake anyone could make! I smashed my 4th toe pretty hard and let out a howl that I am sure woke some of the neighbors.

After hobbling around on my gimpy toe for a couple of days, my Taiwanese friend, Clair, told me that I should go to the doctor to have it checked out.

But, as I told Clair, going to the doctor back in the US is a hassle, so I figured that going to one here would be even worse (based on the fact that I don't speak Chinese) and I wasn't interested in spending the time, energy, and money on my 4th toe.

Clair insisted that it's not a big deal and I really should take care of it. So she drove home from work with me to help me locate a doctor in the area.

About one block from my house, she found one. A small orthopedic clinic with a doctor who speaks English! I'm blown away by how easy it was to find one, the sign is even in English... I could have found it myself if I would have bothered!

I have to hand it to the Taiwanese, this is pretty darn convenient! Nick and I even noted when we first arrived in Taiwan how many small clinics dot the city here. It seems that there are practically as many health clinics as their are 7-11's! And, based on Clair's attitude about the whole thing, it seems that randomly finding a clinic where and when you need one with little effort is par for the course over here.

So today, after work, I went down to the clinic. There was no appointment, no line, and no waiting. After filling out some very simple paperwork and handing over my health insurance card, I was asked to pay a very small co-pay - $150NT (about $5US) - and then it was into the Doctor's office.

The doctor looked at my toe and told me I needed an X-ray before he could tell me anything, so the nurse lead me down the street (about a block) to the X-ray Clinic. No appointment, no line, no waiting. They immediately took me into the back room, x-rayed my foot, and within 10 minutes we were back at the Orthopedic Clinic, X-rays in hand.

The Doctor checked out the X-rays and told me that I didn't have a broken foot, but he recommended that I ice my foot over the next couple of days and apply an anti-inflammatory ointment three times a day for the next week.

He also recommended that I get some physical therapy to aid in my recovery. So, I headed next door to the adjacent physical therapy clinic. Again, no appointment, no line, no waiting... I was immediately put on a bench and given infrared heat therapy followed by ultrasound therapy on my afflicted area. The whole process took about 25 minutes.

All-in-all, I spent about one hour and $150NT ($5US). In return for this time and money I received a visit with an orthopedic doctor, anti-inflammatory ointment, an X-ray, and one session of physical therapy.

The doctor recommends that I come back daily for at least 1 or maybe 2 weeks for physical therapy sessions which will cost $50NT each (less than $2 US).

Of course, I'm still new here in Taiwan and I don't know too much about their national health care system, but from what I've seen so far, I have to say... I'm very impressed!


  1. I'm glad you've helped show the evils and perils of socialized medicine.

  2. Rachel!!! Awesome blog, you commie!!!

    Haha... Hey, it sounds like an excellent health care system. How much is taken out of your paycheck for the national health care (percentage wise). Do they over-inflate your paycheck to compensate for the higher taxes? I'm just curious. We were all talking about this early last week. I hope you're doing well!