Posted June. 28, 2005 06:03,
Medical costs of patients with serious disease, including cancer, will be halved by 2007.
All meals for hospitalized patients will be covered by health insurance starting from next year, while costs of higher-grade infirmaries for five patients or more will be also covered from 2007.
The government and the ruling Uri Party presented a roadmap to reinforce coverage of health insurance in a party-government consultative conference on June 27.
According to the roadmap, the medical costs of patients with serious illnesses will be reduced by an average of 53 percent by 2007. Cancer patients who currently pay one million won in medical costs will have to pay just 630,000 won in September, 560,000 won in 2006, and 470,000 won in 2007.
Focused Support on Three Big Diseases-
For starters, insurance coverage will be extended to three types of serious disease, including cancers, heart diseases, and cerebrovascular diseases. But for patients with both heart diseases and cerebrovascular diseases, the insurance coverage will be applied to only those who undergo operations on afflicted areas. It is predicted that 320,000 cancer patients, 4,000 heart disease patients, and 7,000 cerebrovascular disease patients will benefit from this annually.
Insurance will be applied to medicine, including anti-cancer medicine, various testing and operations of the three types of illnesses, starting in September. Furthermore, the statutory ratio paid by patients which is now 20 percent of medical costs that are covered by insurance will be lowered to 10 percent.
Also, ultrasonic testing and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) will be covered by health insurance as well from January next year. All the medical costs, except for special examination, meals and higher-grade infirmaries costs, are covered by insurance.
The ruling party and the government are planning to expand the support by annually designating additional nine to 10 serious diseases to be covered by 2008.
In addition, all hospitalized patients regardless of illnesses will see their meals covered by insurance from 2006. Insurance will be applied to infirmaries for three or four patients as well, from the current coverage of five or six patients, starting in 2007.
Based on this, the government and the ruling party decided to raise the ratio of health insurance coverage from the current 61.3 percent to 68 percent in 2006, 70 percent in 2007, and 71.5 percent in 2008.
Inevitable Raise in Health Insurance Premium-
It is expected to take 1.3 trillion won this year alone to push ahead with the roadmap. Also, an additional one trillion won in 2006, 700 billion won in 2007, and 500 billion won in 2008 will be needed.
As this is likely to cause the health insurance premium to rise significantly, opposition from insurance subscribers is predicted.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare also said, Although a surplus of health insurance will cover the costs this year, an average of 4.1 percent annual increase, ranging from 3.5 percent to six percent, is inevitable.
The ministry also argued, Given that Koreas health insurance premium is considerably lower at 4.31 percent of the average persons salary than Germany, France, and Japan at 14.4 percent, 13.55 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, it is no surprise that the coverage is limited. It plans to raise the premium to five percent of a persons salary by 2008.
With increased coverage, it is expected that the number of patients visiting doctors will grow explosively. The ministry announced the starting of revision of related laws in July after collecting public opinions by holding a public hearing on June 30.