Korea's rapidly aging population is leading to a rise in geriatric diseases. The number of dementia patients visiting hospitals rose 4.5 fold over the last seven years, while the amount of money spent on treating the illness rose 11 times over the same period.
The Health Insurance Policy Research Institute under the National Health Insurance Corporation said Sunday that a study of the diseases affecting senior citizens between 2002 and 2009 shows that the number of dementia patients rose from 47,747 in 2002 to 215,459 in 2009, while the total cost of treatment skyrocketed from W56 billion (US$1=W1,114) to W621 billion.
Other geriatric illnesses such as Parkinson's disease also increased. Over the period, the number of patients suffering from Parkinson's disease rose 2.4 fold from 32,235 to 76,226, while spending on treatment surged 6.1 times. Also, the number of senior citizens with cerebrovascular diseases increased 1.8 fold and treatment costs rose 3.3 times.
From 2002 to 2009, the total number of senior citizens suffering from degenerative diseases such as dementia, Parkinson's and cerebrovascular ailments grew 2.1 fold from 499,000 to 1.03 million, while spending on treatment rose 4.2 fold from W581.3 billion to W2.4 trillion.
An NHIC official said, "Expensive treatments have been developed, but hospitals are also charging patients for unnecessary services, leading to sharper increase in treatment costs than in the number of patients."