Economic Pinch Makes Hospital Visits More of a Luxury

People are visiting hospitals less frequently in cases of mild symptoms as the recession forces them to be more frugal, the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service said on Monday.

Total medical expenditure covered by the national health insurance stood at W50.74 trillion last year, up 5.2 percent or W2.51 trillion from 2012.

On average, Koreans spent 19 days at hospitals in 2013 -- 2.5 days as an inpatient and 16.8 days as an outpatient – while forking out W1.02 million on medical bills.

The total medical expenditure exceeded W50 trillion for the first time, but the number of days people visited hospital decreased by 0.5 percent.

"Due to the prolonged recession, many people seem to be choosing not to go to hospital unless their symptoms are relatively serious," said an official at the HIRA.

However, those over 50 spent more time at hospitals. In particular, people aged 65 or older spent a total of W17.53 trillion paying their medical bills last year, accounting for 35 percent of the nation's total medical expenditure.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 25, 2014 13:24 KST