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Govt. mulls extending aid for patients with severe illness

The government is considering extending a financial support program for low-income patients with serious diseases in an effort to reduce their financial burden, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The program, which started in 2013 and is slated to end this year, is designed to protect people with four critical illnesses -- cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and rare and incurable diseases -- and serious burns from big out-of-pocket payments.

Ministry of Health and Welfare (Yonhap)
Ministry of Health and Welfare (Yonhap)

The ministry said it is weighing plans to extend the support program due to high demand for its continuation from people in the low-income bracket, who are suffering from big out-of-pocket payments.

Officials said the ministry will also push to make the support program permanent, while expanding the scope of covered diseases and allowing more people to benefit from it.

The program, which is operated under the state health insurance system, calls for providing a maximum 20 million won ($17,600) per capita to low-income households with such patients in order to keep "catastrophic expenditures" from plunging them into deeper poverty.

The ministry move is in line with one of President Moon Jae-in's campaign pledges. Moon has promised to ensure that catastrophic medical expenditures will not make households go bankrupt.

According to the National Health Insurance Service, the program has benefited nearly 60,000 patients with critical illness so far, with the amount of financial support tallied at 176 billion won. (Yonhap)

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