William Hsiao awarded Presidential medal from Taiwan

William Hsiao, left, with Taiwan President Mr. Ma Ying-jeou

May 13, 2015 — William Hsiao, K.T. Li Research Professor of Economics, was awarded the Presidential medal—Order of Brilliant Star with Violet Grand Cordon—by Taiwan President Mr. Ma Ying-jeou at a March 17, 2015 ceremony at the Presidential Palace. Hsiao was cited for his contribution in establishing Taiwan’s widely praised National Health Insurance (NHI) system.

One of the world’s leading experts on designing health care systems, Hsiao was chief adviser and led a task force that designed Taiwan’s system, implemented in 1995. Today, 99.9% of Taiwan’s 23 million citizens have comprehensive health coverage, including dental care, vision care, medications, home visiting nurses—everything except long-term care. “They have truly universal coverage and access to high-quality health care,” said Hsiao, “even for people living in very remote areas and prisoners. At the same time, they are able to keep their costs under control through a single-payer system.”

At Taiwan’s request, Hsiao and colleagues evaluated the system’s successes and weaknesses at its 10-year anniversary, and they are doing so again for its 20th. Hsiao said that while Taiwan has done much right, there is still work to do because disease patterns have changed, medical technology has improved, the population is aging, and people’s health expectations have changed. “The strength of Taiwan and some other countries is that they want competent and impartial outsiders to evaluate their health systems, based on evidence, and say how they should move forward,” he said.

Hsiao has helped numerous countries improve their health systems, including Cyprus, Colombia, China, Sweden, Poland, South Africa, and Uganda. The state of Vermont also commissioned him to design a single-payer system.

Learn more

The art of getting things done (Harvard Public Health magazine)

 Karen Feldscher