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Medical and Healthcare Expenses Soaring in South Korea
Due to Rapid Population Aging
Medical and Healthcare Expenses Soaring in South Korea
  • By Choi Moon-hee
  • May 20, 2019, 10:05
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South Korea’s medical and healthcare expenses are soaring due to rapid aging of the population.

The Korea Insurance Research Institute said in its recent report that South Korea’s medical and healthcare expenses-to-GDP ratio, which had been 4 percent in 2000 and 4.9 percent in 2005, increased from 6.2 percent in 2010 to 7.6 percent in 2017 due to rapid aging of the population.

The report also said that the ratio of public funds in the expenses changed from 53.9 percent in 2000 to 58.4 percent in 2005, 60.4 percent in 2010 and 58.2 percent in 2017. As of 2017, the ratio was as high as 85 percent in Germany, 84.2 percent in Japan, and 83.6 percent in Sweden. It was 81.8 percent in the United States in 2018 and the OECD average was 73.4 percent in 2017.

In the meantime, the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs recently announced that South Korean households bore 33.3 percent of their total current health expenditure in 2016, 1.3 percentage points lower than in 2011 yet higher than the OECD average of 20.3 percent.

The higher burden has to do with the fact that a lot of treatments were not covered by the national health insurance until 2017 and even those covered by the insurance required patients’ payments as high as 20 to 60 percent.

According to the report of the Korea Insurance Research Institute, the number of practicing doctors per 1,000 population increased from 1.3 in 2000 to 1.6 in 2005, 2 in 2010 and 2.3 in 2017. The OECD average was 3.4 in 2017.

With medical support expanding, the potential years of life lost per 100,000 population showed a significant decrease. The index indicating early death based on a potential lifespan of 70 years fell from 4,951 years in 2000 to 3,834 years in 2005 and then to 3,248 in 2010 and 2,593 in 2015. For reference, the 2015 figures are 4,721 in the United States, 3,022 in Canada, 3,013 in France, and 3,365 in the OECD.

South Korea remained the country with the highest suicide rate in the OECD. Its figure, which had been 16.6 per 100,000 population in 2000, rose to 29.9 in 2005 and 33.5 in 2010 before falling to 25.8 in 2015. It was 7.5 in Britain, 10.6 in Germany, 11.1 in Canada, and 11.6 in the OECD.