March 16, 2016 08:01
Medical spending among the over-60s accounts for half of the total as Korean society ages rapidly, the National Health Insurance Service said last week.
A whopping W57.95 trillion was spent on medical treatment last year, and W27.99 trillion or 46.8 percent was for patients over 60 (US$1=W1,210).
But there are only 6.89 million people in the age bracket and they account for just 17.9 percent of those eligible for the national health insurance without medical aid.
Once all 7.2 million baby boomers turn 60, medical expenses will likely snowball, making it inevitable for the government to hike health insurance premiums.
The medical costs of elderly citizens increased from just W15 trillion in 2009 to W27 trillion in 2015, an average rise of W2 trillion per year.
The reason is that the population is aging, which has brought with it an increase in sufferers from chronic diseases like dementia, cataract, high blood pressure and back and knee pain.
The number of people aged over 60 eligible for the national health insurance increased by 2.12 million over the same six-year period, while that of those under 40 shrank by 2.01 million.
Particularly those over 80 saw a sharp rise in medical costs as their number almost doubled from 760,000 to 1.21 million.
Average per capita medical spending for over-80s stood at W416,000 a moth, a whopping 9.5 times as much as for those in their 20s and 30s (W43,900), compared to 4.1 times for 60-somethings and 6.8 times for 70-somethings as much.
Costs are also rising because more elderly people are living in nursing homes.
But the medical costs of people in their 60s are now rising at a slower rate as healthier lifestyles take hold. They went up 13.8 percent over the last six years, compared to 65.5 percent for over-80s.
Meanwhile the average health insurance premium per household increased 1.4-fold from W66,900 per month in 2009 to W94,000 last year.
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