SEOUL, July 6 (Korea Bizwire) – Starting next year, foreign laborers in Korea will no longer benefit from a policy that allowed them to receive medical treatment for free, and will instead have to pay 20 percent of the total expense.
Laborers with foreign citizenship used to receive up to 10 million won ($8,500) for their medical bills if they visited public hospitals in Korea.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare released a revised version of the ‘Medical Support Guidelines for Foreign Laborers’ on Wednesday, July 6, which now requires that patients cover 20 percent of total medical costs up to 5 million won ($4,300), with the other 80 percent provided by national or local government bodies if a patient is treated at a public hospital such as a National Medical Center, local medical center, or Red Cross Hospital.
However, medical expenses exceeding 5 million won may be covered on a case-by-case basis if an individual medical institution deems it necessary. This policy will be implemented in 2017.
Currently, all foreign laborers being treated for medical conditions developed in Korea are not required to pay a penny. The limit for each treatment is 5 million won, but there’s no limit to the number of times they can receive treatment.
If public medical institutions decide that more expensive treatment is required, the limit increases to 10 million won, and patients are still not required to cover any of the costs.
However, for medical bills exceeding 10 million won, patient are required to pay 20 percent of the amount exceeding the 10 million won limit.
In other words, patients pay nothing for medical bills less than 5 million won, and if a bill added up to 11 million won, for example, the patient would have to pay a 20 percent deductible on the extra 1 million, which would be 200,000 won.
Under the new regulations, patients will have to pay 1 million won for a 5 million won bill, and 2.2 million won if the total expense is 11 million won.
This medical expense support project first began in 2005 when foreign laborers were considered as a “disadvantaged” group since they could not benefit from national health insurance or any form of medical aid.
But the impartiality of this idea came into question when some pointed out that Korean citizens who pay national health insurance premiums still have to pay a 30 percent deductible when they receive medical treatment.
Furthermore, some foreign laborers abused the system and fled back to their home country after receiving free medical services in Korea.
The Health Ministry speculates that approximately 3 billion won ($2.6 million) was spent on the project every year.
The National Assembly Budget Office pointed out last year that the policy of offering such medical benefits to foreign laborers was excessive, and advised officials to amend the regulations and institute a co-pay system.
By Nonnie Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)