The National Health Insurance Service asked the Korean Hospital Association in March to check the ID cards of inpatients before treatment initiation so that national health insurance benefits can be given only to insured persons. The two organizations recently signed a memorandum of understanding so that inpatients are subject to voluntary ID card confirmation at hospital-level medical institutions starting from the second half of this year. The National Health Insurance Service explained that clinic-level medical institutions, where few foreigners have illegally benefited from the national health insurance, do not have to check inpatients’ ID cards.
At present, it is not compulsory for medical institutions in South Korea to check visitors’ ID cards. As a result, an increasing number of foreigners are illegally using the national health insurance by memorizing a resident registration number and a name.
The National Health Insurance Service is also planning to receive real-time data on when ID cards were issued from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and the National Police Agency and link the data to its systems. The South Korean government, in the meantime, is planning to compel foreigners staying in South Korea for six months or more to become insured starting from June 16.
At present, foreigners staying in South Korea without a job can choose whether or not to be covered by the national health insurance. Those opting to be covered must pay a monthly premium of at least 110,000 won. Benefits are immediately limited in the event of deferred payment and visa extension is limited once the amount in arrears reaches a certain amount.
As of the end of last year, a total of 1.75 million foreigners were registered in South Korea and 970,000 out of them were covered by the national health insurance. Of the 780,000 uncovered, 430,000 were staying in the country for less than six months and the rest were illegal aliens. In other words, at least 780,000 foreigners in South Korea lied in a medical blind spot.
According to the National Health Insurance Service, health insurance cards were illegally used on 178,237 occasions from 2015 to 2017. During the period, 3,895 inpatients used other persons’ cards for a total benefit of four billion won.