SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Korea Bizwire) – Revenue worries in the aftermath of healthcare reforms dubbed “Moon Jae-in Care” are keeping hospitals’ coffers closed even as the government takes pains to encourage the medical sector to invest in new infrastructure.
After initially earmarking 390 billion won for a medical facility in “city of the future” Songdo in 2010, Yonsei University has in the eight years since made little progress on that front.
An insider at Yonsei’s Severance Hospital explained, “Since entering into an agreement [with Songdo and the Incheon Free Economic Zone], the medical landscape has continued to shift beneath our feet while preparations are being made, so at the moment the focus is on drawing up a comprehensive plan on how to move forward.”
Interest in swooping in and setting up shop while Yonsei University is locked in its deliberations appears to be nonexistent among the other big five hospitals (SNU Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, Asan Medical Center, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital), all of which have flatly denied the possibility of opening a facility in Songdo.
Besides a reluctance to take on the financial challenge of such a significant venture, the generally held view is that the payoff is not attractive enough considering Incheon’s Inha University Hospital has already been established in the region since 1996.
Though the government, in a move for “regulatory innovation”, opened up the Songdo area for the construction of a major hospital, the blame for hospitals’ disinclination to take up the offer may rest with its other regulatory actions, namely Moon Jae-in Care.
Since the beginning of this year, the government has banned the practice of hospitals imposing surcharges for patients who choose to be counseled, diagnosed and treated by select doctors. As lucrative as this practice has been for hospitals – the total value of surcharges in 2013 was near 1.6 trillion won – it has been the target of ire for patients, who in many cases have reported being paired with pricier doctors not by choice, but due to circumstances such as limited availability that leave them with no other option.
One medical professional at a major hospital said, “It is true that because of Moon Jae-in Care and the ban on surcharges, the situation surrounding hospitals is tough. Right now, it looks as though instead of growing investment in new ventures, the major players are taking a wait and see approach.”
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)