Korea’s National Health Insurance—Lessons From The Past Three Decades

Health Affairs, 01/20/2011

Jeong HS – Although covered services have gradually expanded, benefits remain relatively low, and public funding is limited, leaving beneficiaries with relatively high copayments. Coupled with the fact that the government manages the schedule of fees paid to providers, the health care share of gross domestic product was a low 6.3 percent in 2007. An analysis such as this may be of particular interest in middle– or low–income countries contemplating expansions of coverage or undertaking insurance reforms.

Author Commentary

Achieving universal coverage in Korea has lowered the direct burden of paying for health care on Korean households. At the same time, the goal of making that coverage affordable has served as an “inducement for the government to intervene to contain costs”—for instance, by negotiating the fees paid to health care providers. For other countries seeking to expand coverage, a key lesson from Korea’s experience is that broadening coverage is an important first step that should probably precede making the benefit package more generous.

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