My family in Taiwan is always raving about how awesome health care is there. Some of them were recently reading off some health care prices to me. U.S. abdominal ultrasound: $500-$600. In Taiwan, it’s $27 without insurance and $1 with insurance. The difference is ridiculous.
Recently in Taiwan, someone suggested that they entice more Mainland Chinese students over to the small island’s colleges and universities by offering them health care. Of course, not a lot of people thought that was a great idea.
This got me wondering about Taiwan’s health care system, and I found this nifty 2008 NPR coverage of Taiwan’s universal health care in 2008. Apparently, most people in Taiwan are like my family, very happy with the current health care system. However, the government is borrowing money to keep the program afloat and it is definitely straining the service system. Nevertheless, it looks like the U.S. spends quite a bit more of our GDP on health care compared to Taiwan, Taiwan’s 6.23% compared with the U.S. 16%, and the U.S. doesn’t even cover everyone. I really don’t know enough about health care or how to reform it, and granted Taiwan is a small island less than one tenth of the population of the U.S., but those numbers do make me think that we’ve been doing a pretty bad job of it here in the States.
Also, having gone to college in Taiwan to study Mandarin myself, I was surprised to hear that Taiwan’s higher education was “desperate” for enrollment since I remember that Taiwan’s foreign student population was quite bustling and lively back in the 90s, and considering I’ve only heard that Taiwan has become even cleaner, safer, and more fun to visit since I was last there, I imagine the foreign student draw is still pretty good. However, their higher ed enrollment is probably suffering because of the fact that Taiwan’s birthrates have been plummeting, and currently they hold the record for lowest birth rate in the world. Less babies means less college students, and with things as they are, they’re looking to be in an even worst bind later on.
With a little research, I found that Taiwan is featured as an academic destination on The Chronicle of Higher Education. They even have a video loudly touting that “Taiwan is an extremely safe, free, and democratic country”. Boy, they sure are selling it. I guess I’ll do my part in helping out my heritage country. When I studied there in college at the National Taiwan Normal University, I had an awesome time. I was watching kung fu movies every week at the local MTV (kind of like karaoke rooms but for movies instead), taking tai chi and Chinese painting classes in my spare time, and eating a lot of really awesome, really diverse food all over the island. The beaches and oceans were gorgeous, the forests and mountains are heavenly, and even the rest stops along the freeway were destinations in and of themselves. And despite studying and visiting extensively and traveling a lot on my own (love the trains and buses), I never once felt threatened or unsafe there, so hooray for democratic and free. So yeah, if you’re looking for a place to study and have a great time, Taiwan’s the place. You might want to stock up on the tacos and enchiladas, though, because I had mad cravings for Mexican food while I was there and couldn’t find a drop of salsa on the whole island.