Marking the fourth anniversary of the unveiling of the policy to expand national health insurance coverage, also known as “Moon Jae-in Care,” this event was arranged to examine the achievements made thus far and the shortcomings to address. We are joined by five citizens who will share examples of their personal experiences: In Kyo-don, a taekwondo bronze medalist in the Tokyo Olympics; Kim Seong-jun; Kwak Dong-hun; Cho Eun-yeong; and Jeong Won-hee. Also participating is Chairperson Kim Minseok from the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee. Thank you all.
The policy to expand national health insurance coverage aims to ensure that a lack of money never prevents anyone from receiving treatment and that no households are ruined as a result of medical expenses. It is also a way to support people’s livelihoods and economic vitality by making our entire society more resilient. This policy has helped us respond rapidly and appropriately to every area connected to infectious diseases, ranging from the costs of preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 infections as well as personal illnesses to bills for late-night care and the services of medical professionals. The national health insurance has provided a reliable last line of defense in the prevention and control of COVID-19.
Thanks to the public support, the Government has been able to take a bold step to implement Moon Jae-in Care – which has become one of our most acclaimed policies. I am truly grateful to the National Health Insurance Service, medical staff and relevant officials for their strenuous efforts to expand coverage.
The Government has worked hard to expand coverage, focusing particularly on cancer and other serious diseases that require costly medical procedures. Extra charges for the right to select a particular doctor have been abolished, the cost of upper-level hospital inpatient rooms have been covered by the national health insurance and more integrated nursing and caregiving services have become available. The scope of insurance coverage for MRIs and ultrasounds has been widened. We also continue to push to get more of the currently non-reimbursable emergency room, intensive care and prescription drug costs covered by national health insurance.
Moreover, we have institutionalized support for catastrophic health expenditures related to the four major illnesses, so medical costs never leave low-income families unable to make ends meet. Now subsidies of up to 30 million won are available for all illnesses. The yearly limit on out-of-pocket expenses has been lowered to 1.5 million won, allowing patients to get the care they need without worrying about medical fees.
Importantly, those likely to frequent hospitals – children under five years of age and the elderly 65 and over as well as people with disabilities – have seen their rates of coverage rise significantly. Out-of-pocket in-patient hospital expenses for children ages 15 and under have been cut to 5 percent. Medical fees for treating severe dementia patients have dwindled by 680,000 won while the cost of dentures and implants for the elderly have decreased by 360,000 won and 320,000 won, respectively. Health insurance coverage has also been expanded to include more prosthetics for the physically challenged.
As a result, 37 million people were able to save 9.2 trillion won in medical expenses as of the end of last year. However, health insurance coverage must be expanded further to reduce the burden of medical expenses for households even more. With medical technology advances and related treatments becoming more complex, many new non-reimbursable services have emerged.
Thyroid and paranasal sinus ultrasound scans are frequently used despite the high costs. The related expenses will be reduced from the fourth quarter of this year as we will move up the timetable from the original plan. By the end of next year, we will also ease financial burdens from essential medical treatments for things like severe cardiac ailments, severe psoriasis and root canals.
Specialized medical care for children will also be quickly expanded. We will increase support for public medical centers that specialize in pediatric care and establish short-term hospitalization service centers for severely ill children next year. In the second half of this year, regional hub hospitals will be designated, so seriously ill patients of all ages can receive treatments at a location close to them. The degree of support will also be tied to income levels so that the lower people’s income, the more support they will receive should catastrophic health expenditures arise.
When we devised the policy to strengthen health insurance coverage four years ago, there was a lot of concern that the costs would greatly deplete National Health Insurance Service funds. The Government promised to use only 10 trillion won of the Service’s then-20 trillion won in reserves to strengthen insurance coverage. As promised, the scope of health insurance coverage has been greatly expanded, but the finances have been managed stably. As of the end of last year, health insurance reserves stood at 17.4 trillion won, and they are forecast to far exceed the 10 trillion won targeted for the end of 2022.
This has been made possible thanks to our citizens who fought together against COVID-19 as well as the spread of other diseases by following everyday health guidelines such as washing hands and wearing masks. Our people’s high level of civic consciousness is an important pillar that supports the sustainability of health insurance. Every one of them has made me truly grateful and proud.
The Government will also manage health insurance finance in a more transparent and thorough manner. We will work harder to ensure that health insurance serves as a pump primer for expediting the advancement of medical technology and that we simultaneously catch two rabbits-securing sustainable health insurance and expanding coverage.
Strengthening health insurance coverage constitutes the foundation of the people’s health and will serve as a steppingstone for achieving an inclusive recovery and leap forward. Today, I look forward to you all finding out how well Moon Jae-in Care is working for people by listening to the personal experiences of five citizens and accounts from experts. The Government will continue to do its utmost to build a secure nation that is free of anxiety caused by medical bills.