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Tim Culpan

Taiwan’s Health System Runs a National Security Risk

It’s cheap and convenient, yet the lauded health insurance program is packed with sensitive data that can be used against Taipei.

A strong defense.

A strong defense.

Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program offers its 24 million citizens one of the world’s best and most affordable medical systems. The price could be ongoing risks to patient privacy and national security, as a prosecution investigation revealed last week, amid growing tensions with China and increasing cybersecurity attacks. 

Launched in 1995, the single-payer mandatory system is modeled after Medicare in the US, except that it covers the entire population instead of just the elderly. Along with longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality — metrics that tend to improve as an economy develops — a 10-year study shows disparities between the most and least-healthy groups in Taiwan have since narrowed, though the authors say it’s not possible to link that to the health-insurance program.