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Pres. Moon's health care reform ignites various responses in and out of medical field
Updated: 2017-08-22 12:11:00 KST

President Moon Jae-in introduced his ambitious health care reform plan early this month.

(Korean) August 9, 2017
"From the latter half of this year until 2022, I will make a country where every single person is free from medical expense concerns and is treated of any disease without any worries."
( 2022 , .)

The ultimate aim is to have no medical treatment left uncovered by the national health insurance except for some cosmetic procedures.
The national health insurance will start covering a number of services patients had to pay 100-percent for -- like MRI scans, ultrasounds, and robotic surgery.
The government will also cap medical spending based on households' yearly earnings with the national insurance agency bearing the extra amount.

The government plans to pour 30.6 trillion won, or 27 billion U.S. dollars, into this, with the money coming from the accumulated profits of national health insurance and the government budget.
While this is expected to cut average medical expenditure by 18-percent and for low-incomers, by 46-percent, it will also raise Korea's national health insurance coverage rate to 70-percent by 2022 from the current 63.2 percent.
Korean households bear almost 37-percent of their medical expenses the second highest in the OECD, following Mexico. The OECD average stands a bit below 20-percent.

"The national health insurance covering ALL medical treatments sets a foundation for the government to prevent excessive spending on medical care. The public sector can set the prices for treatments and monitor if they're carried out properly."

"Among those who welcome the government's new policies is the field of Korean traditional medicine where many treatments weren't previously covered by the health insurance system. They say the new policies could raise demand for their treatments."

The current insurance covers Korean traditional medical treatment by 35-percent in large hospitals and by 47-percent in small clinics.
Expanded coverage will make treatment affordable for more patients as seen through the government's trial program for traditional therapeutic massages, known as 'chuna'.
Costs fell from the 26 to 80 dollar range to the 4 to 10 dollar range and the clinic here has been seeing more patients.

"Korean medicine is very effective in curing scoliosis, disc diseases, arthritis and menstrual pains but patients looked for other options because of the financial burden. So we've been voicing opinions that health insurance should expand coverage of our treatment."

"After a traffic accident, I first received treatment at Korean traditional clinics, but stopped later because of the high cost. But, thanks to the test program, I could receive treatment again at a lower price and I'm very happy about it."

Korea's dental field also welcomed the move, saying a wider range of people can receive dentures and dental implants.

But hospitals are concerned that lower medical bills could make it hard to manage hospitals and provide quality care.

"It's true that hospitals have been seeing losses in treatments that national insurance covers and they've been making up for that loss through charging for treatments that national insurance doesn't cover. So, the government will continue communicating with the medical field and make sure to set appropriate prices for treatments."

Also, the health care reform could result hurting small clinics.

"Patients don't really go to large hospitals due to the high cost, but as the national health care expands coverage for all treatments, patients will start to prefer large hospitals over small clinics. The government seems to know this, but a detailed plan on this part isn't yet given."

Many people welcome the proposed changes as Korean healthcare hasn't been reformed for decades.
But with some critics saying the target coverage rate of 70-percent is still lower than desired the government has lots to do to tweak the reform and turn it into reality.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.
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