SEOUL, Jul. 13 (Korea Bizwire) — The Korean Medical Association and the Association of Oriental Medicine are currently at loggerheads over the possibility of expanding health insurance coverage for physiotherapy treatment administered by traditional medicine professionals.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that it will reach a decision on the proposed changes to insurance coverage after taking a closer look at physiotherapy techniques and their effectiveness.
The Ministry’s decision has come under severe criticism from the Korean Medical Association, which believes that the measuring the effectiveness of physiotherapy is impossible, and thus providing health insurance for a meaningless “treatment” is absurd.
For any proposed medical treatment to be covered under the national health insurance plan, there must be a body of research that verifies that treatment’s role in fulfilling a certain medical need and an analysis supporting the effectiveness and efficacy of the treatment.
As current traditional medicine cannot employ medical equipment in the treatment of patients, it is impossible for these treatment methods to be objectively tested, disqualifying them as candidates for health insurance coverage.
Furthermore, the medical association emphasizes that the medical equipment used in combination with physiotherapy treatment requires a comprehensive knowledge of a variety of fields such as human physiology and rehabilitative medicine that are founded on modern medical principles.
The Association of Oriental Medicine has not taken the medical association’s statements lying down. It insists that extending insurance coverage will directly benefit patients, saying that “because of the lack of insurance coverage for physiotherapy treatment administered in traditional medicine, patients have to assume a heavy financial cost to get better. Expanding coverage will also provide patients with a wider variety of choices.”
As evidence, the association has put forth a field study that was conducted in 2011 as part of a collaborative effort between the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
In the study, 20.3 percent of patients who were receiving traditional medical care said they were undergoing physiotherapy. Among the opinions expressed by the patients, the need for health insurance coverage for physiotherapy treatment was ranked as the second most pressing issue in regards to traditional medicine.