Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said Friday that the government will push forward with its plan to set fixed prices on seven different medical treatments despite objections from doctors’ groups.
The government announced earlier that it will introduce the Diagnosis-Related Group pricing system for treatment of seven common illnesses, such as cataracts and hemorrhoids, starting on July 1 as a part of its health care reform. Under the new system, patients diagnosed with the seven diseases will be charged the same rate.
“The new system will reinforce the efficiency of national health care system, and also ease the burden on public medical spending. Most advanced countries have already adopted it,” Kim said in a Cabinet meeting on Friday.
He made the comment as some groups of doctors are threatening to stop treating patients in protest of the plan, claiming that it will reduce the quality of overall medical care.
Kim, however, refuted the claim, reiterating that the reform will come into effect as scheduled.
“We have to correct misconceptions and push ahead with the plan,” Kim said.
Subject to the flat rates are operations on cataracts, ruptured or swollen tonsils, hemorrhoids, hernia repairs, cesarean sections and uterine surgeries.
The ministry says the new pricing system would contain medical spending, by preventing doctors from forcing patients to undergo unnecessary tests, operations and other medical services. Doctors claim it would bring down the overall quality of medical services.
The Korean Ophthalmologists Association announced last week that its members will not perform any cataract operations during the first week of July in protest of the controversial plan.
The Korean Medical Association, the representative body of more than 110,000 physicians in Korea, had threatened to suspend the procedures subject for flat rates, only to withdraw it in the face of strong public criticism.
“We still oppose the government’s DRG system, but will decide whether to boycott operations, depending on the result of a new public opinion poll,” the doctor’s association said in a press statement.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it would suspend the licenses of the physicians and hospitals that refuse to treat patients, warning that such a collective boycot is illegal.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com