Taiwanese health authorities plan to establish a special zone for medical tourists near Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the island's major international airport in the northern county of Taoyuan. The government aims to attract local and international investors, including hospitals and hotels. Sources differ as to whether private interests are expected to provide all the money to develop the zone or the government plans to invest at least US$130 million in the project.
Health authorities expect that in its first four years of operation the zone will attract 45,000 foreigners. Taiwan has been promoting medical tourism in recent years, and mainly competes with Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.
The number of medical tourists who went to Taiwan to undergo medical checkups or receive cosmetic surgery in 2008 was about 5000, and by 2009 that increased to 40,000. Almost all are Chinese on group tours as members of medical clubs.
A legislative body that advises the government has suggested that there is a need for the government to amend medical laws to bar hospitals located outside special medical tourism zones from treating or seeking medical tourists. In its study of medical tourism, the Organic Laws and Statutes Bureau said the government should amend articles 61, 88 and 91 of the Medical Care Act to only allow medical institutions located within the special zones to offer medical tourism services. The bureau argues that this is needed to avoid a public backlash, and the government should never provide subsidies drawn from state coffers to such institutions. It also suggested that the government should amend the National Health Insurance Act to exclude medical procedures provided by those hospitals from National Health Insurance coverage. And in addition, the government should amend the Communicable Disease Control Act to bar hospitals in the special zones from attracting patients from epidemic areas and set a ceiling on the number of foreign patients allowed to travel to Taiwan for medical tourism to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Taiwan has endeavored in recent years to develop medical tourism. Although it has promoted the country, it is now clear that a divide has developed in the authorities, between those who want to encourage it, and those who want to limit and control it.
The Taiwan government is committed to the policy of allowing visits by individual Chinese tourists and business visitors but details of the plan are still being worked out.