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[Editorial] Is Rescue Package for Health Insurance Finance Healthy?

[Editorial] Is Rescue Package for Health Insurance Finance Healthy?

Posted May. 29, 2001 07:20,   


The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) unveiled its rescue package Monday. The rescue package has four components: financial security, financial stability, solution for the people’s inconvenience, and the reform of the system.

Concrete contents of the rescue package include: 20 short-term measures designed to curb the expenditures as part of its efforts to stabilize the reeling health insurance system, such as no increase in the insurance premiums within this year, allocation of more subsidies from the state coffers, loans from banks, adoption of an intensive self-rescue plan, readjustment of the payments by the patients, combination of doctors’ examination fee and the prescription fee, exemption of the injection production from the separation of hospitals and clinics, and the long-term measures, such as change of the health insurance card into e-Card, the readjustment of some medicine categorization, and the optional recuperation insurance for the elderly people.

It is understandable that the MHW had to come up with such a rescue package to deal with the 4.2-trillion-won health insurance deficit. In fact, it is not easy to find a rescue package that can satisfy both the medical circles and the people.

Nevertheless, there are some uncertain components in the government’s rescue package. First of all, although the government plans to achieve the financial balance by 2006, it seems too optimistic. The government’s plan to cover the debts within five years by subsidizing 50 percent of the local health insurance budget from the state coffers and by increasing the insurance premium is unconvincing. It seems odd for the government to set up the rate of the subsidy from the state coffers or to plan for the increase of insurance premium in advance since the medical fees will increase accordingly by the increasing numbers of the patients as well as the advanced medical technologies.

The rescue package can function simply as an allopathic remedy since it was prepared without having the agreements from the medical and the pharmaceutical circles. The doctors’ association already spoke out about the violation of the promise as well as the retrocession of the medical treatment. The combination of the examination fee and the prescription fee is viewed as the violation of promise for the purpose of gaining the effect of cutting the medical expenses. The successive diminution in the medical treatment fee is also viewed as a plan that goes against the market principle, as it restrains the patient’s right to choose the doctor. The repeated usage of the same prescription by the chronic patients is claimed to be dangerous.

Although the government expects the 2.4 trillion won of retrenchment of the health insurance per year through the rescue package, it does not mention the potential occurrence of the supplementary budget. It is questionable whether the government’s rescue package is an efficient self-recovery plan for the health insurance.