The medical community expressed intense anger against a bill, which aims to give the state health insurance agency special judicial rights to investigate hospitals run under a borrowed name of a doctor.
Doctors demanded Rep. Song Ki-hun of the ruling Democratic Party, who proposed the bill, step down immediately. They even requested the government to dismantle the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS).
The Korean Medical Association (KMA) held a news conference in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, on Friday, with key members holding a picket that said doctors opposed the NHIS becoming like the police.
|Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip (second from right), KMA Planning Director Jeong Seong-kyun (right) and KMA Spokesman Park Jong-hyeok (second from left) protest a bill, which aims to give the National Health Insurance Service rights to investigate unlicensed hospitals, in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, on Friday.
“Song’s proposed bill treats physicians as if they are potential criminals. This is unacceptable,” KMA President Choi Dae-zip said. “We can never forgive a person like Song. We demand his immediate resignation as a legislator.”
Choi noted the police authority is a powerful right to arrest a person in an emergency and file an arrest warrant through prosecutors. Thus, he added, the idea of conferring the police power on the NHIS should be taken carefully because it could limit the people’s fundamental rights.
If the bill gets passed, it could threaten physicians, working at a hospital in suspicion of being illegally operated, to get arrested, Choi pointed out.
The KMA head said it was lamentable that when doctors wanted NHIS to scrap its inspection rights, Rep. Song even stepped further to propose a bill to give the agency special investigation rights.
Choi strongly criticized NHIS’ financial management, saying it was “gobbling up people’s health insurance premiums.” He vowed to run a campaign with KMA members to dismantle the insurance agency.
“NHIS’ operation expenses exceed 1 trillion won ($890 million) a year which is all funded by the people’s health insurance premiums,” Choi said. “NHIS is the monster that eats up taxpayers’ money.”
Choi claimed that NHIS, which cannot even meet its own goals, should not obtain special police authority to investigate hospitals.
On the same day, Jeollanamdo (South Jeolla Province) Medical Association (JMA) also released a similar statement, urging Song to withdraw the revision bill promptly.
JMA said unlicensed hospitals did not stem from the lack of investigation rights by the government and the NHIS.
“They were able to operate because the government did not check if they were legally established and because they allowed illegal hospitals such as a medical cooperative to run under a lax legal system,” JMA said.
JMA argued that NHIS’ investigation rights overlapped with the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s inspection rights, which needed to be integrated or scrapped.
“Trying to give NHIS special police right might be a scheme to expand monitoring and punishment on the whole medical community and ‘tame’ doctors,” the group said. “If the government gives NHIS such rights despite our warning, we will refuse to receive NHIS’ service and push for the dismantlement of the NHIS.”
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