SEOUL, March 10 (Korea Bizwire) — Controversy is beginning to spark over new health insurance rules that impose monthly premiums of 40,000 won (US$35.04) on foreign students, starting this month.
Some students from Southeast Asia began to consider giving up on education because of the new health insurance premiums, while others have made illegal attempts to get a job to pay for the fees.
They say that the new measure comes as a heavy burden, since they have already been struggling with relatively higher prices in South Korea than in their home countries.
The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) announced via the official website that the newly imposed monthly health insurance fee of 39,540 won on foreign students is only 30 percent of what is due, saying that the fee will rise to 40 percent by March of next year, and 50 percent by the year after.
“I didn’t want to sign up for health insurance in the first place, but those who do not sign up can’t get their visas extended,” said a foreign student from Vietnam.
On the other hand, some foreigners support the new measure, arguing that others will soon feel the benefits of signing up for health insurance.
“It is frustrating at first, but as soon as you go to a hospital when you’re sick, you will realize how great it is to hold health insurance,” said a foreign student from Mongolia who recently became a naturalized citizen in South Korea.
The NHIS explained that this new measure seeks to offer foreign students the same health benefits that South Koreans enjoy, adding that the insurance premiums were set at 30 percent of 131,789 won, the average insurance premium paid by foreigners in 2019.
It added that premiums will rise as high as 50 percent over the next two years, without any future plans for additional increases, in consideration of the students’ financial status.
In the United States or Europe, foreign students subscribe to various insurance plans offered by private companies. Sweden and Britain, famous for free universal healthcare, imposes certain fees on foreign students.
In light of these cases, South Korea’s newly imposed health insurance premiums are, in fact, far from inappropriate, experts say.
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)