The Korea Herald


How much is virus treatment costing the government?

By Kim Bo-gyung

Published : May 7, 2020 - 14:57

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The cost of COVID-19 treatment averages between some 3.3 million ($2,690) and 70 million won per patient, differing on the severity of illness, National Health Insurance, South Korea’s public insurance institution, said Thursday.

It costs from 3.3 million won to 4.7 million won to treat a mild case, from virus testing to isolation to treatment at a hospital, according to the institution’s approximation based on information it received from some 20 general hospitals and treating virus patients.

The figure stands at some 12 million won for patients in serious condition who require oxygen therapy, and about 70 million won for critically ill patients on ventilators or ECMO machines, it added.

The bill for COVID-19 treatment for South Korean passport holders is zero, as they are covered by the government -- 80 percent by the National Health Insurance, and the central government and municipalities jointly pay the remaining 20 percent -- as stipulated under the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.

Under the assumption that 11,000 novel coronavirus patients undergo care, the National Health Insurance projected the country’s expenditure to total as much as 98.5 billion won.

The calculations were based on the periods of hospitalization of patients during the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak, which was about 18 days in mild cases and up to 77 days in severe and critical cases. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late last month that the average for COVID-19 patients was around 25 days at that time.

As of Thursday, South Korea reported 10,810 accumulated cases of coronavirus infections, up four from the previous day, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 86 people were discharged from isolation after a full recovery, pushing the number to 9,419, while the number of patients remaining in treatment was 1,135.

By Kim Bo-gyung (