August 10, 2017 11:36
President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday said the government will gradually expand public health insurance coverage to 3,800 treatments and medications that are currently not included.
MRIs will be gradually covered by 2020, while 15 to 50 percent of the extra costs for consulting a specialist will be slashed next year. The decision is part of plans to improve the state health insurance system while cutting the expenses of patients, especially those in the low-income bracket.
"We will build a country where every person is free of concern over medical costs and can receive treatment for any disorder without having to worry about expenses," Moon said.
The government said expanding coverage will cost W30.6 trillion over a five-year period, and the money will come from a W21-trillion state health insurance fund (US$1=W1,139).
Moon pledged to ensure the fund will not be depleted below W10 trillion by 2022 by raising contributions by just two to three percent a year. Coverage of medical bills will rise from the current 63.4 percent to 70 percent by 2022.
But critics warned of a potentially explosive rise in government spending. Lee Kyu-shik at Yonsei University said, "We could see demand for coverage surge to levels that the government's budget can't cope with." Critics questioned whether the modest two to three-percent annual hikes in contributions will be enough to cover the increased coverage.
The Health Ministry said the expanded coverage will reduce people's average personal health spending from W504,000 to W416,000.
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