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South Korea Health Insurance

South Korea

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Known to be one of the most linguistically and ethnically homogenous countries in the world, South Korea – referred to officially as the Republic of Korea, is perched on the north-eastern corner of continental Asia, occupying the southern region of the Korean Peninsula. The country showcases a varied topography of picturesque mountains, remote, unspoiled islands, dynamic coastline and white-sand beaches. Visitors have the chance to develop an appreciation for its rich cultural tapestry, explore serene temples, royal tombs and a peek into ancient Confucianism. Described as a country of endless possibilities, this forward-thinking nation has an insatiable appetite for technology and dominates many contemporary fields such as space programs, robotics and automobiles. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Korea has leading rankings in science, mathematics, problem solving and reading, confirming the population of 48.8 million (CIA, 2012) has the world's highest estimated national IQ. Along with the official Korean language, Chinese, Japanese and English are widely taught in schools however the latter is rarely spoken outside the main business and tourist centers.

South Korea Health Care and Insurance

The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (MIHWFA) has overall responsibility for the country’s heath system, managing the delivery of health and social services to residents and undertaking a supervisory role in South Korea’s health insurance scheme. Known as ‘NHI’, the National Health Insurance system allows universal coverage for the populace to access medically-necessary hospital, physician and diagnostic services. As the country’s single insurer, the National Health Insurance Corporation is tasked with managing the NHI, responsible for determining the eligibility of insured persons, making benefit payments, and assessing and collecting premiums. Membership to the NHI is mandatory, with employee and employer contributions calculated at a percentage of employee wages. The bulk of health system funding is derived from government subsidies, employer and employee contributions, private health insurance and co-payments by users of health services. Out-of-pocket expenses can range from anywhere between 10-50percent of the cost of treatment, and as some medical services are not covered under the NHI plan - including a number of high-tech diagnostic services and some types of chemotherapy for cancer treatment – many locals arrange additional private insurance coverage.

Despite the universal healthcare system, state-of-the-art diagnostic facilities and well-equipped hospitals, public satisfaction of the health sector is low due to long wait times and the high cost of treatment. The provision of healthcare is heavily dominated by private medical providers according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, with around 90percent of facilities and specialist doctors operating within for-profit facilities. As patients can choose their healthcare provider, primary care is often bypassed in favour of specialists, even for simple ailments, rendering the public-sector role to providing basic primary-care services. As the majority of medical establishments are private, for-profit institutions, minor problems are therefore treated inefficiently and expensively, contributing to the issue of increased wait times and compounding the need for additional comprehensive health insurance to cover the costs associated with private facilities.

Compared to an average healthcare spend of around 9percent of GDP by developed countries, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, South Korea’s spend is amongst the lowest in the OECD, although is forecast to increase to approximately 6.7percent of GDP in 2014. Despite a consistently low spend, life expectancy has risen steadily in recent decades and currently stands at an estimated 76 years for males and 82 years for females (CIA, 2012), lower than Japan, but comparing favourably with other countries in the region such as Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Frequently quoted as an indicator of health care conditions in a country, the infant mortality rate in South Korea is comparable to the low levels in other advanced countries at an estimated 4.08 deaths per 1,000 live births (CIA, 2012) ranking South Korea better than the likes of Australia, the UK and Canada. The health system however faces a number of challenges, with pressure mounting due to an increase in chronic disease, a low birth rate, an aging population and inequity in income distribution.

South Korea’s ambulatory services are operated by the fire department; contactable by dialing 119. The service has a rapid response time; however personnel are not trained in emergency medicine to the same level of ambulance staff in other developed countries. Ambulances do not carry sophisticated equipment but instead deliver patients to the closest hospital for emergency treatment. A Medical Relief Programme (MRP) allows for the provision of emergency medical services to those not covered under the national scheme, such as foreign workers and the homeless, but is not designed to replace the need for comprehensive health insurance. Expatriates and visitors to South Korea who require medical attention should be prepared to pay treatment costs at the time of receiving the service.

South Korea travel   South Korea's medical insurance industry is a fast paced ever evolving market however our staff are experts and at your disposal.

Expatriates and Travelers in South Korea

South Korea Travel Insurance Concerns

Vaccine-preventable diseases such as Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Japanese Encephalitis occur in South Korea, prompting the US Centre for Disease Control to recommend inoculations are administered for these diseases before travel. Routine childhood vaccinations for those not previously immunized are also recommended.

Natural hazards such as severe rainstorms and typhoons occur during the monsoon season which typically extends from June until September. Storms have previously caused flooding and landslides and resulted in extensive damage to infrastructure and significant loss of life. The provision of essential services can also be disrupted, and advisories recommend expatriates and visitors remain informed of weather forecasts and follow the advice of local Korean authorities. The safety of road users is also commonly at risk, mainly due to excessive speed, running of red lights, weaving motorcycles, the frequent lane-changing of locals without signaling, and aggressive bus drivers. These factors have resulted in a significantly high traffic fatality rate. Accidents involving pedestrians also occur as marked crosswalks are not consistently adhered to by drivers and motorcyclists sometimes ride on sidewalks. Injuries are likely to be treated at a private medical facility, requiring payment at the time of service for those not covered under the South Korean health insurance plan.

Political demonstrations are common in South Korea, where a modern democracy operates and locals are active in their political participation. Demonstrations should be avoided because despite a decrease in the violence previously associated with such protests, intended peaceful gatherings have turned confrontational. Travel advisories recommend exercising caution should one find themselves in an area of active demonstrations.

Provocative behavior by the country’s North Korean neighbour has increased tensions on the peninsula, prompting warnings from developed nations against tourist and non-essential travel to the North-Western islands and surrounding waters due to the risk to personal safety. In November 2010, two people were killed and 16 injured when North Korean artillery shelled a South Korean island, resulting in foreign governments advising their own nationals that similar occurrences cannot be ruled out. A high level of readiness is maintained by South Korea should a response to DPRK threats be required. The country regularly conducts military training exercises throughout the year, including civil defense drills which are usually held four times each year. Expatriates and visitors should remain informed through local media sources regarding upcoming military and defense drills, which sometimes occur at short notice. Visitors should ensure they have comprehensive health and travel insurance which provides coverage for all possible medical circumstances, including evacuation.

South Korea Expat Health Insurance

Medical facilities in South Korea are of a high quality and well-equipped. Western-style facilities are available in the major cities, however the sector is dominated by private medical providers and the cost of treatment is considerable. Individuals need to be prepared to pay in full, the cost of any treatment, unless comprehensive health insurance coverage is confirmed and an ability to pay established. Cover can be arranged through International Medical Insurance, which provides globally transferable policies for whenever and wherever you may travel. Policies deliver benefits for a range of medical needs, including emergency evacuation and repatriation, doctors’ and specialist fees, the cost of medication and maternity services. To guarantee the cost of treatment and/or hospitalization in South Korea is not a financial burden, contact an International Medical Insurance consultant to discuss your requirements.