Moon reiterates need for health care reform, dismisses financial concerns

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Aug 10, 2017 - 11:42
  • Updated : Aug 10, 2017 - 11:56

President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his plan to overhaul the country's health care program Thursday, insisting the move is an important step in protecting the very lives and safety of the people.

"I am convinced the government must put the people's lives and safety before anything," the president said while meeting with his top aides for a weekly meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

The remarks came one day after the government introduced its plan to greatly expand medical coverage by the state-run health care program that it says will reduce the medical spending of all people by an average 18 percent and up to 46 percent for people in the low-income bracket.

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) speaks at a weekly meeting with his top presidential aides held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Aug. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

"We must no longer see an entire family plunge to the bottom of poverty due to an illness and high medical costs. We are by far the No. 1 country among all OECD nations in terms of poverty rate and suicide rates of the elderly. We must now end the period of time when the poor, including the elders who live alone, give up on their own lives because of difficulties in making a living," Moon said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

The proposed new health care program, however, has also caused serious concerns over how to fund the massive reform, which the president himself has noted will cost up to 30.6 trillion won ($26.9 billion) over the next five years.

Many, including opposition parties, questioned the viability of the so-called Moon Care that they say will continue to cost trillions of won in government spending, not just over the next five years but for years to come.

"I do evaluate the move positively in that it suggests the right direction for the health care system to take eventually,"

said Rep. Lee Yong-ho, chief policymaker of the liberal People's Party.

"But I am concerned it may come back as a huge financial burden five years from now," he added.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party also agreed the president may have offered what everyone, including itself, wished to have.

"But again, the problem is the money. The president is blinding the people with bright, rosy illusions while failing to explain how to supply the additional 178 trillion won" needed to implement his economic policies for the next five years, said LKP floor leader Chung Woo-taik.

Moon said the government has thoroughly reviewed ways to finance increased health benefits while minimizing the rise in insurance payments but insisted the nation must move down the path even if it costs more.

"The government has thoroughly reviewed financial issues under close consultation with the finance ministry and chose the best route possible that will practically ensure the fiscal soundness of the health care program through a gradual implementation that will start in the second half of this year and last until 2020," he said.

The president earlier said about 10 trillion won out of the 30.6 trillion won needed will come from the accumulated profits made by operating the massive health care fund, which currently stands at over 20 trillion won.

The rest will come from the government budget, but the president said insurance payments will not increase at a greater rate than the average rate of the past 10 years.

"As it will require enormous resources, we will have to thoroughly check the delivery of benefits to make sure our taxpayers' money and insurance payments are not wasted," Moon told his aides Thursday. (Yonhap)