Gifts, bribes and solicitions: Print media and the social construction of informal payments to doctors in Taiwan

Yu Chan Chiu, Katherine Clegg Smith, Laura Morlock, Lawrence Wissow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Taiwanese practice of patients giving informal payments to physicians to secure services is deeply rooted in social and cultural factors. This study examines the portrayal of informal payments by Taiwanese print news media over a period of 12 years-from prior to until after the implementation of national health insurance (NHI) in Taiwan in 1995. The goal of the study was to examine how the advent of NHI changed the rationale for and use of informal payments. Both before and after the introduction of NHI, Taiwanese newspapers portrayed informal payments as appropriate means to secure access to better health care. Newspaper accounts established that, although NHI reduced patients' financial barriers to care, it did not change deeply held cultural beliefs that good care depended on the development of a reciprocal sense of obligation between patients and physicians. Physicians may have also encouraged the ongoing use of informal payments to make up revenue lost when NHI standardized fees and limited income from dispensing medications. In 2002, seven years after the implementation of NHI, the use of informal payments, though illegal, was still being justified in the print media through allusions to its role in traditional Taiwanese culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-530
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Informal payment
  • Media
  • National health insurance
  • Taiwan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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