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30,000 physicians protest 'Mooncare' on street rally
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2017.12.11 15:02
  • Updated 2017.12.11 15:02
  • comments 0
About 30,000 physicians stage a rally at the Daehanmun of Deoksugung, central Seoul, on Sunday, to protest against President Moon Jae-in’s policy of expanding health insurance coverage, dubbed the “Mooncare.”

Despite the cold weather, nearly 30,000 physicians from across the country held a street rally in Seoul over the weekend to protest against President Moon Jae-in’s policy of expanding health insurance coverage, dubbed the “Mooncare.”

They also cried out to stop the legislation that allows Oriental medicine practitioners to use the modern medical device.

The Korean Medical Association’s emergency planning committee held the “Rally by Physicians from Across the Country to Protect the People’s Health” in front of the Deoksu Palace, central Seoul, Sunday.

The rally organizers had worried that some doctors would skip the rally because of the snow and the rain on Sunday morning. However, physicians were apparently angry enough to beat the bad weather to object to the government’s one-sided policy push, they said.

Doctors began gathering at the gate at around noon.

“Immediately withdraw populist policy Moon Jae-in Care,” they chanted. “Stop the Mooncare, or it will shatter the medical industry’s finance. Withdraw the Mooncare, or it will irresponsibly crush the future of the healthcare sector.”

Another chant went, “Absurd assertion by Oriental medicine practitioners will hurt people’s health.”

The rally officially began at 1 p.m., after pre-events for half an hour.

Lee Pil-su, head of the KMA’s emergency planning committee, and other physicians raised their voice to criticize Mooncare and the legislation that gives the green light to Oriental medicine practitioners to rely on the modern medical device.

“Doctors do not oppose the government’s policy of enhancing health insurance coverage. But if Mooncare were the right way to protect the people’s health better than now, we physicians would not take to the street on this cold day,” Lee said.

“The government is unilaterally pushing Mooncare policy without proper consultations with the medical community,” he said. “Mooncare will distort our medical service system again, under the pretext of turning all non-reimbursed medical services into reimbursed ones.”

Lee went on to say that what makes patients happy will make doctors content, and vice versa.

“Now is the time that we must protect ourselves as well as the people’s health. The government should accept the voices of the medical community and not press ahead with Mooncare,” he said.

Choo Moo-jin, president of the KMA, said the government should provide proper compensation for what he called doctors’ sacrifice.

“The current medical service system was created based on our sacrifice. The government should not force us to make a further sacrifice. We are not medical slaves,” Choo said.

Choo added that if the government wants to turn its policy into reality, they should first compensate for doctors’ sacrifice.

“The government should normalize the reimbursement system so that doctors can receive payment for providing newly-reimbursed medical care. The government should draw up measures to secure enough financing,” he said.

Lim Soo-heum, chairman of the KMA’s congress of delegates, warned that the Korean medical community would “come to an end,” due to Mooncare.

Implementing the policy, the government’s control of doctors and pressure against them will intensify, he said. Doctors will be denied autonomy in medical care and end up as “a scapegoat of the socialist medical system.”

“Before the policy push of Mooncare, the government should offer detailed reimbursement rates and a precise estimation of financial backup,” said Kim Sook-hee, head of the Seoul Medical Association. “If the government rams it through without any communication with us, we will fight ceaselessly for the protection of the people’s health and doctors’ expertise and autonomy.”

After chants and performances heated up the rally, KMA’s Lee announced the list of demands. Earlier, the emergency planning committee had listed up the requests from other representative groups of doctors such as clinic doctors and government doctors.

The list included 16 demands under the four categories. They demanded the government normalize the reimbursement system, reconsider turning of non-reimbursed care into reimbursed or preparatory ones, from scratch, ban Oriental medicine practitioners from using Western medicine’s device, reform the evaluation system to help doctors make their own medical care decisions, and overhaul the National Health Insurance Service.

During the rally, doctors hold a placard that reads, “If patients are happy, doctors are happy, too,” marching towards Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday.

A street march, which was the highlight of the rally, began at 2:40 p.m.

The participants marched from Daehanmun to Hyoja Community Security Center via Gwanghwamun three-way intersection, protesting against Mooncare and Oriental medicine practitioners’ use of the modern medical device.

They stopped at 100 meters from Cheong Wa Dae and continued the rally.

Lee urged the government to guarantee proper reimbursement rates for doctors, before turning non-reimbursed medical care into reimbursed ones, reading “the message to President Moon Jae-in.”

He also demanded the government overhaul the structure of the Health and Welfare Ministry’s Healthcare Policy Review Committee; improve the medical delivery system; separate the health insurance of Western medicine from that of Oriental medicine and close the ministry’s traditional Korean medicine policy division; shut down the government’s forceful hospital visits and inspections; adopt real name system in government review; establish a commission for reimbursement transfer and participate in a reimbursement evaluation committee; and reconsider setting up a new reimbursement system from scratch.

“The reason doctors and doctor aspirants gathered here, despite the bone-chilling cold, is they worried that the Korean people’s future of healthcare would be in danger. President Moon should listen to us, as we, as doctors responsible for people’s health, try to correct the medical system,” Lee said.

In front of Cheong Wa Dae, the rally went on for 20 minutes with a solidarity speech and chants. The participants went back to Deoksu Palace around 5:05 p.m.

In a closing speech, Lee said the rally was not the last one by doctors.

“If the government does not accept the medical community’s demands sincerely, we will hold a second, and a third rally. Doctors will not spare any effort to promote the people’s health.”


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