The South Korean health ministry said Tuesday it will add more benefits to the public health insurance program that will expand medical services for the elderly while reducing medical expenses for all patients.
The move, however, will likely lead to a rise in insurance premiums as it is expected to cost up to 4.6 trillion won ($4.28 billion) over the next four years.
In an annual report to the president, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will expand medical services to include not only those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, but also people suffering from minor symptoms of the degenerative disease.
This will expand public medical services to about 50,000 people, mostly elders, who are currently not eligible for such treatment, it said.
To help minimize additional expenses for patients, the government will cut the number of doctors who are allowed to charge additional fees for special or selected treatment and examination from the current 9,900 to 3,300 before 2017.
This will help reduce overall additional expenses by patients by nearly two thirds, the ministry said.
The additional costs for expanded services will likely require an average 1-percent increase per year in insurance premiums for all subscribers over the next four years, the ministry added.
"The ministry will work to minimize the increase in insurance fees through effective management of its existing funds," Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo was quoted as telling the president. (Yonhap News)