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The dangers of free healthcare

Posted October. 24, 2012 03:04,   


The National Election Commission has asked presidential candidates about 10 policy issues. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party implied that he favors free healthcare by saying, “Everyone should receive the necessary healthcare without worry or burden over treatment.” Other candidates also suggested populist policies. Free healthcare, however, is considered a disaster given the precedents in other countries.

What Moon must be thinking of is the models of the U.K. or Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands. Free healthcare in those nations is paid with taxpayers’ money. The U.K. introduced free healthcare in 1947 and the average Briton pays 2,000 pounds (3,202 U.S. dollars) per year for it. Koreans paid an average 1.88 million won (1,700 dollars) for national health insurance late last year. Before talking about free healthcare, Moon should consider if the people are willing to pay much more in taxes or premiums.

A medical system in which all hospitals are run by the government and staff are all public servants undermines the quality of medical care. British patients have to wait months to get surgery at top hospitals. The rich can go abroad to get better treatment but the poor must wait after going on the waiting list. Poorly paid doctors also have no sense of duty or willingness to learn new techniques. British hospitals are hiring foreign residents since many talented people avoid medical school in the U.K. due to relatively low pay. More than 10,000 Indian and Pakistani residents are annually trained at such hospitals.

Korea provides less healthcare coverage than other member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. If a Korean gets a serious illness with less coverage such as cancer, he or she will be hit hard economically. Nobody should be left untreated because of money but the country must face reality. The government gives subsidies those who make less than the minimum cost of living. Therefore, lower coverage of serious illnesses should be fixed with an increase in national health insurance premiums and the scope of coverage.

Free healthcare also creates fictitious demand. In the case of free school lunches, students do not eat twice because the meal is free. Healthcare is different, however. People go to a hospital when they are just a little sick. Medical shopping will surge among the elderly, who have plenty of time and are often sick. The Health Medical Future Committee estimated that healthcare for the country will reach 256 trillion won (232 billion dollars) in 2020 based on last year’s figures. Even if left intact, the country`s rapidly aging society will dramatically increase medical spending. Does Moon really know the reality of free healthcare?