Rural and fishing areas with a substantial elderly population residents see many chronic disease patients and spend a lot of money on medical care, statistics show.
According to data by the National Health Insurance Service on Sunday, Gangwon Province has the most high blood pressure patients with 148.6 per 1,000 people.
South Jeolla Province ranked top in both diabetes (59.5 patients per 1,000 people) and arthritis (184.8), while North Jeolla Province ranked first in mental and behavioral disorders (60.5). Both Gangwon and South Jeolla provinces came first in liver diseases with 32.9.
Chronic disease patients multiplied since 2007 because of the increase in the number of elderly residents as the population ages.
The number of patients with high blood pressure increased 4.6 percent on annual average from 92.6 per 1,000 people in 2007 to 111 last year. That of diabetics grew 4.9 percent annually from 37.8 to 45.7 over the same period.
Overall medical spending used by all medicare beneficiaries nationwide last year amounted to W51.35 trillion (US$1=W1,069). Average health spending per person was W1 million last year, and W10.15 billion or 19.8 percent was spent in places other than where the patients lived.
Seoul topped the list of destinations for hospital visitors from elsewhere with 31.4 percent or W3.97 trillion of last year. The proportion of medical fees paid by patients from other areas at Seoul's top five hospitals -- Seoul Asan Medical Center, Seoul Samsung Medical Center, Seoul National University Hospital, Yonsei University Severance Hospital, and Seoul St. Mary's Hospital -- was a whopping 55.1 percent.