The Constitutional Court ruled that the law prohibiting a physician from establishing or operating at least two medical institutional under any pretext was constitutional. The decision came four years after a complainant requested for a constitutional review on the Medical Service Act Article 33 Paragraph 8, or the so-called “One Person One Institution Law.”
“It is possible to foresee what the operation of overlapping medical institutions prohibited by the Medical Service Act is, and the details can be supplemented by the application of ordinary interpretation by judges,” the Constitutional Court said. “These provisions do not contradict the principle of clarity of criminal justice.”
The court recognized the legislative purpose of the Medical Service Act, which stated that a medical practitioner should operate one medical institution to maintain the quality of medical practice, prevent public health damage and imbalance in the supply and demand of medical services due to excessive pursuit of profits, and curtail monopoly/oligopoly and a polarization of the healthcare market.
Also, it said it was reasonable to apply the law to physicians and medical corporations differently.
The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), the Korean Medical Association (KMA), and the Korean Dental Association (KDA) welcomed the ruling, while the United Dental Group expressed regret.
Kim Jun-rae, a senior researcher (attorney) at NHIS, said, “This ruling emphasized the fact that the establishment or operation of medical institutions should not aim profits.” The court’s decision shows concern that the owner of a hospital and the medical practitioner should not be separated because it could hurt patient care, he added.
KMA’s spokesperson Park Jong-hyuk said the court’s ruling seemed to have been based on worries that nullification of One Person One Institution Law could prompt hospitals to excessively focus on profit-making. “The ruling meant that discussing for-profit hospitals could cause many problems to the public health,” Park said.
KDA welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision the most. The group of dentists has staged a one-person protest in front of the Constitutional Court for 1,428 days, calling for the upholding of the current law.
“The ruling helped Korean people visit medical institutions with assurance and encouraged doctors to focus more on responsible medical care than on the pursuit of profit,” KDA said.
However, United Dental Group, a chain of dental clinics, said it felt sorry for the latest decision. “We hope this trial will work as an opportunity to revise the One Person One Institution Law reasonably,” the group said.
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