Starting this April, foreign patients receiving cosmetic surgery or treatment in Korea will be able to get tax refunds enabling them to know the exact price of their treatment.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the police will jointly crack down on illegal brokers soliciting foreign patients, and if an illegal broker is caught after the Act on Overseas Expansion of Medical Services goes into effect in June, the state will be able to impose a fine amounting to the total sales from foreign patients.
On March 14, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced plans to finalize the ordinance and regulations concerning the Act on Overseas Expansion of Medical Services, to make a prior announcement of the legislation, and to begin discussions with other ministries.
Beginning this coming April 1, the government will provide tax refunds for foreign patients receiving cosmetic surgery or treatment, allowing them to know the exact price of their treatment. A refund office will be located at airports, ports and city centers (Medical Korea Support Center, etc.).
The government will conduct a survey of the prices and fees charged by hospitals and medical intermediaries soliciting foreign patients and release them on the Korea Health Industry Development Institute website. To help resolve medical disputes concerning foreign patients, the ministry will distribute a multilingual brochure on how to report medical disputes, along with details on communication assistance and the dispute resolution procedure. They will also organize training programs on medical disputes for hospitals treating foreign patients (in late March).
To further protect foreign patients, the government also stipulated a requirement to subscribe to the medical malpractice liability insurance, which is compulsory for all hospitals soliciting foreign patients—the annual compensation limit for clinics and hospitals is a minimum of 100 million won, for general hospitals the limit is a minimum of 200 million won.
In addition, the government obligated brokers to notify the patients of the transaction details concerning foreign patients and problem solving procedures when contract issues occur, as well as explain privacy agreements.
If the hospitals or medical intermediaries apply for the ministry’s assessment, the government will conduct an evaluation within a month. If they meet certain criteria, they will be designated by the state and will be allowed to display a symbol, showing that they are state-designated hospitals and brokers.
If institutions not legally registered try to solicit foreign patients, the government can impose a fine of up to 5 million won in addition to existing penalties: a maximum three years in jail or a fine of up to 30 million won. The government can also impose fines amounting to the total sales from foreign patients and can provide rewards of up to 10 million won in proportion to the fine or penalty for those who report such irregularities.
The ministry will consult and sign an MOU with the National Police Agency and jointly crack down on illegal brokers. They will respond to illegal brokers aggressively by imposing fines and penalties according to the results of the crackdown.
In addition, the government also specified the details for hospitals that want to enter the overseas market. They will first have to report to the government before signing a contract or establishing an overseas branch. The government also included details on government support for these institutions, including financial and tax assistance.
The government will permit medical advertising to solicit foreign patients, but set up measures to prevent them from concentrating on cosmetic surgery and dermatological treatment, and build the foundation to train medical interpreters by specifying the requirements for testing the abilities of a medical interpreter.
In the case of advertisements to solicit foreign patients, the ads of a certain department cannot exceed one-half of all medical advertisements and if advertisements of one department exceed more than half of the total health care ads, the government can cancel the license or impose penalties (up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 10 million won).
Meanwhile, the latest subordinate legislation also limits the number of hospital beds for foreign patients in general hospitals in addition to the current limit on hospital beds for foreign patients in tertiary general hospitals.
Accordingly, the larger tertiary hospitals may not have more than 5/100 of their hospital beds assigned to foreign patients as in the past, and a new clause stipulates that general hospitals may not have more than 8/100 of their hospitals assigned to foreign patients. If hospitals attract more foreign patients than the maximum number of hospital beds assigned, the government may order corrections be made.
DongwookLee, director of the Health Industry Bureau said, "We will do our utmost to prepare for the enforcement of the Act on Overseas Expansion of Medical Services, so that foreign patients visiting Korea to receive excellent health care services do not suffer disadvantages or discrimination, and we plan to actively collect opinions during the prior announcement period of the subordinate legislation."
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