The Korean government is planning to revise the law on the health insurance system to require foreigners to stay in the country for six months or more to receive health care benefits.
Currently, foreigners can benefit from the National Health Insurance if they stay in Korea for three months. As the required period of stay in Korea is short, the number of foreigners coming to Korea simply to benefit from the insurance system has been on the rise, raising fairness issues with local subscribers of health care.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare disclosed on June 7 its proposal for the revision of the relevant law. It plans to submit the proposal to the National Assembly for enactment within this year.
Many had voiced criticism against the moral hazard of foreigners or Koreans who are residents of other countries that would exploit the optional registration policy and their short-term visiting condition. They would temporarily register for health care upon entry when a medical procedure was needed, receive high-cost treatments in a short period of time, then cancel the registration upon exiting the country. In addition, foreigners who are in actual need of medical treatment that did not sign up for health care would not able to receive adequate medical services when they needed it the most. This was criticized as a blind spot of health care.
On this, the Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to make it mandatory for foreigners who stay in Korea for six months or longer to subscribe to the National Health Insurance. Currently, signing up for the insurance system is optional for foreigners. The ministry also plans to extend the minimum stay period for getting healthcare benefits from the current three months to six months.
In addition, visitors accepted due to humanitarian reasons must sign up as a regional applicant unless they are in the work force. Unlike recognized refugees, visitors of this sort were not eligible as regional applicants until now. As many foreigners did not receive income or possess assets in Korea or tracking their financial status was difficult, they usually paid less-than-average health care fees.
Also from now on, entire households with foreigner registrations will also be charged with a higher health care fee compared to the last year’s average fee.
However, permanent residents (F-5) who receive equivalent treatment to Korean citizens and marriage immigrants (F-6) will still be charged on a rate depending on income and assets like before. There is no effective method to collect unpaid fees from foreigners who do not have assets in the country, but those who abuse the situation will be given a disadvantage when applying for a visa extension to stay longer than the period stated by the Ministry of Justice or other screenings.
addition, requisite conditions in documents of proof such as family relations will become stricter. Any document issued overseas must go through a screening process by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the issuing nation to come into effect in Korea. These documents include files needed for registration of health care dependents or single-household members.