INSURANCE | Staff Reporter, Korea

Korea to tighten health insurance for expats

Foreigners with delayed insurance payments will face visa-related penalties by May.

Korea is tightening health insurance rules for its growing expat population as the Ministry of Health and Welfare will soon require foreigners who have continuously resided in the country for at least six months to subscribe to the state healthcare programme through non-employer-sponsored plan and pay monthly premiums, reports The Korea Times. The stricter guidelines will kick into effect in July.

Also read: Japan moves to limit national health insurance coverage

Originally, only salaried workers were required for mandatory registration, leading to cases where foreigners who were in need of high-cost medical procedures, ended up signing up for the programme as the insurance cover to enjoy 62% of essential medical costs reimbursed. 

This case can be usually found in temporary visitors than settled residents, suggesting that the set-up is vulnerable to abuse.

The regulator also raised the monthly premium for foreign subscribers by around $90 (KRW103,000). Foreign residents who will be late on insurance payments will also be subjected to visa-related penalties starting May, according to the ministry.

From 2013 to 2017, data from the National Health Insurance Service suggest that average foreigners who had the non-employer-sponsored plan paid about $1,207 (KRW1.37m) in insurance payments over five years and received medical benefits totalling $4,158. Meanwhile, foreigners who enrolled to the programme through their employers paid $4,731 on average and received received benefits worth $1,938 (KWR 2.2m). 

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