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Government to subsidize treatment of 100 rare diseases

People with 100 diseases newly designated as “rare” will face a lower financial burden as of next year, as the government has decided to offer financial assistance to support expenses associated with treatment.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday that patients battling any of the illnesses on the list will pay only 10 percent of their total medical expenses, beginning in January 2019.


A rare disease is defined as one affecting fewer than 20,000 people, or an illness for which the number of patients cannot be estimated accurately due to the difficulty of diagnosis.

The government already provides support for expenses associated with 827 rare diseases. After months of research that included discussions with patients, families and experts, the ministry added 100 illnesses to the list.

Some 1,800 patients will benefit from the updated subsidy program, the ministry said.

Starting in 2020, the government also plans to subsidize certain medications used to treat rare diseases. At present, the medications are not covered by the National Health Insurance Plan because of doubts about their effectiveness.

By Park Ju-young (