Health insurance service may go into red by 2016

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 7, 2014 - 21:21
  • Updated : Jul 7, 2014 - 21:21
South Korea’s public health insurance institution is expected to see a deficit by 2016 should it maintain the current yearly 1.35 percent rate increase in insurance premiums.

The National Health Insurance Service predicts that its budget deficit will be some 2 trillion won ($1.97 billion) by 2018, if it does not raise premiums while implementing Park Geun-hye’s pledges on health care.

Behind the expected deficit is one of the Park administration’s key pledges, which involves the national insurance program gradually broadening its coverage of expenses related to “four major disease categories” by 2017.

The state agency predicts that the project, as well as other health care pledges, will cost 1.45 trillion won in 2014, 2.05 trillion won in 2015, and 1.87 trillion won in 2016, and 632 billion won in 2017. In total, the agency is expected to spend some 6 trillion won by the end of 2017.

The four categories of illnesses to be covered are: cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and a total of 138 yet-to-be cured conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

The government also promised to insure fees for the cost of hospital stays in single patients’ rooms and the cost of caregivers.

In South Korea, the cost of hospital stays in single patients’ rooms ― which cost much more than multi-occupancy patients rooms ― are currently uninsured by the national program. Many patients, however, are forced to stay in the single patients’ rooms when no other rooms are available, and end up paying high hospital bills.

Starting in August, the government plans to increase the number of multi-occupancy patient rooms in the country’s general hospitals to 70 percent by 2015, from the current 50 percent.

As President Park promised during the presidential election campaign in 2012, the government has been trying to avoid increasing insurance premiums for the last two years, in spite of its costly pledges.

Insurance costs were only raised by 1.7 percent this year, while it was raised by 1.6 percent last year. The Health Ministry recently announced that premiums will rise by 1.35 percent next year.

By Claire Lee (