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Health insurance revamp to benefit low-income bracket

Policymakers and ruling party lawmakers agreed to minimize the possibly growing burden of low-income households in the coming overhaul of the national health insurance system.

During their meeting on Friday, the relevant ministries and the Saenuri Party said they would seek protective measures for low-income earners by setting a reasonable minimum insurance fee that would prevent the low-income bracket from being saddled with a higher payment obligation.

The Ministry of Health initially proposed setting the minimum health insurance fee at 16,480 won ($15). Lawmakers argued, however, that the new fee, if implemented without any protective measures, would increase health insurance fees for 1.28 million low- or no-income households, which currently pay as little as 3,450 won per month for health insurance.

“We reached a consensus that the government must set a minimum health insurance fee with a focus on strengthening equality,” said Saenuri Party Rep. Lee Myung-soo, the leading chairman of the joint discussion on reforming the country’s health insurance payment scheme.

“It is unreasonable to ask low-incomers who have been paying insurance fees as low as 3,450 won to pay the difference because the fee has risen for everyone. There are some people who can’t even manage to pay the 3,450 won,” Lee said, stressing the need for a fairer payment system.

Officials on Friday also agreed to work closely with the National Tax Service to collect more accurate data on citizens’ income levels and payment situations in order to develop more efficient reform measures.

“There are reportedly 4 million citizens with no income, yet we haven’t been able to grasp that figure. We proposed building a more accurate database with the National Tax Services to better restructure the health insurance payment system,” Lee added.

The next joint discussion on reforming the national health care insurance system will be held on April 8, with a focus on free-rider issues and related reforms affecting company-employed residents.

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)
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