The government reiterated its firm intention to push ahead with the “Mooncare,” expressing confidence about its financing, which had been pointed out as the policy’s biggest problem.
“The government has sufficient fiscal rooms. We can raise 50 trillion won ($4.4 billion) or even more,” said Jung Tong-ryung정통령, director of the Insurance Payment Division at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, during a forum Wednesday co-organized by Rep. Nam In-soon남인순 of the ruling Democratic Party and Korean Society of Consumer Policy and Education한국소비자정책교육학회.
“You may think the government will have to spend far more money on healthcare because of population aging, but medical costs five to 10 years later will not change much from the present,” Jung said. “The increase in healthcare cost has been slow over the past decade. It had grown fast in the past as the share of spending on elderly care rose to other countries’ level, but now the growth pace has become stable.”
The government’s estimate has assumed the current trend would continue for the time being, and reflected the expected increase in frequency resulting from the expanding insurance coverage, the official said. There are mounting concerns about the extended coverage hurting fiscal health, but the government does not worry much, he added.
“The government has sufficient fiscal rooms. We can raise 50 trillion won ($4.4 billion) or even more,” Jung said.
He made it clear, however, the government will need to control speed taking various conditions into account rather than pouring money into the program recklessly.
“Even if we turn all uncovered medical services into covered items, the rate of coverage will only rise to the 74-75 percent level,” Jung said. “This is because individual burdens are still high in Korea. It is impossible to increase the rate up to 80 percent unless we drastically lower individual’s burden.”
If the government lowers people’s medical bills without streamlining healthcare delivery system and strengthening primary care, it would only end up resulting in enormous side effects, the official noted. So the ministry will first complete preparatory works, such as improving the delivery system, before moving toward the next phase while expanding coverage over the next five years, he added.
He also said the government would faithfully fulfill President Moon’s pledge to readjust medical fees to an optimal level.
“The medical community is worried much about reasonable costs, but President Moon mentioned the issue not once but twice, and so our ministry is set to keep the promise,” he said.
“We will convert items to covered ones beginning with those most wanted by people until next year, and move to higher stages through consultation with the public,” he said. “The government hopes the medical community, civic groups, and academic circles will actively take part in the process.”
Meanwhile, an expert drew attention by contending it would be necessary to connect medical insurance to the public pension to solve the problem of excessive use of healthcare service.
“If the government links health insurance and public pension by, for instance, paying a higher pension to people who use less health insurance for a period, it will help to improve their awareness about managing health and reduce insurance payment,” said Professor Jung Hong-ju정홍주 of Sungkyunkwan University. “Also, it will prove more equitable because seniors or people with diseases have to spend more on treatments and less for the living and other activities.”
“However, detailed action plans, such as the use of medical insurance and its assessment, and concrete amounts of payment, will require in-depth study later,” he said. “Civil groups, academics and government officials will need to pay continuous interests and research.”
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