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Insurance benefits promised for all medical treatments
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2017.08.09 18:34
  • Updated 2017.08.10 22:02
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The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Wednesday new measures to drastically lower the public’s burden of medical fees and prevent household bankruptcy due to high medical expenses.

The ministry’s new and improved healthcare plan will have national health insurance cover all treatments aside from cosmetic surgeries. MRIs, ultrasounds and other currently uninsured treatments will gain coverage in the next five years.

The new plan aims to “completely solve” the problem of uninsured therapies, as pledged by President Moon Jae-in, officials said.

President Moon speaks during a meeting to introduce a new improved healthcare system to lessen the public’s burden of medical expenses, held at the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital Wednesday.

The government will invest 30.6 trillion won ($27.2 billion) to level out systematic deficiencies and strengthen the state responsibility for easing people’s financial burdens, they said during a meeting chaired by President Moon.

If implemented as scheduled, the plan will reduce the public’s burden of uninsured treatments by 64 percent and low-income household’s medical fees bills by up to 95 percent, according to the ministry.

Source : Ministry of Health and Welfare

The new plan has also defined other preventive steps for expensive medical treatments, medication costs, “selective treatment,” and the burden of low-income families.

In the case of expensive medical treatments, the government will first apply a differential coverage system where the individual will directly shoulder around 30 to 90 percent of the cost, under the so-called “preliminary coverage” system.

The estimated 3,800 treatments designated under the preliminary coverage system will gain national health insurance coverage by 2022, the ministry said.

For expensive medication, such as high-priced cancer drugs, the ministry will maintain the existing positive list system (wherein the government and pharmaceutical company negotiate the drug cost) but apply a differential drug pricing system so the patient can shoulder 30 to 90 percent of the drug’s cost.

The new measures will also eliminate the “selective treatment” system where the patient pays an extra 15 to 50 percent on top of medical treatments for treatment from doctors who have more than 10 years of experience.

Low-income families will benefit greatly with the new “disastrous medical fee support system,” which will support medical costs for all diseases for the low-income bracket. These poor households are especially more vulnerable to catastrophic medical expenses but currently have a higher upper limit amount ratio than high-income families.

Patients forced to use premium hospital wards due to the lack of general wards covered by insurance will also gain phased coverage starting in the latter half of 2018, the ministry said.

Although previous efforts had tried to expand the benefits of the national health insurance, coverage has stagnated at around 60 percent for the past ten years.

Koreans burden significantly more in medical fees compared to other OECD countries. The direct household burden of medical expenses in Korea is 36.8 percent, which is almost two-fold the OECD average of 19.6 percent.

"We will create a country where every person can receive treatment for any disease without having to worry about expenses," President Moon said.


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