Why Korea’s Health Insurance Policy for Overseas Koreans and Foreigners is Unfair and Inconsistent

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South Korea’s health insurance policy for overseas Koreans has been a source of controversy and dissatisfaction for many years. The policy discriminates against certain groups of overseas Koreans based on their visa type and length of stay in Korea and fails to recognize their contributions and needs as members of the Korean diaspora.  Some experts in the field argue that the current policy is flawed and inconsistent and that it should be revised to be more fair and inclusive.

AI Medical/ Image source: ETRI

Six-Month Rule Unfair and Ineffective:

According to the recent amendment to the National Health Insurance Act of Korea, foreign nationals and overseas South Koreans must reside in the country for at least six months from April 3 to receive health insurance benefits as dependents of actual subscribers. One of the most controversial aspects of the policy is the so-called “six-month rule.”  This rule was initially introduced in July 2019 to prevent foreigners from abusing the health insurance system by coming to Korea just to get cheap treatment.

However, this rule is unfair and ineffective for several reasons. First, it treats overseas Koreans as potential criminals rather than as compatriots who have a legitimate right and need to access health care in their ancestral homeland. Second, it ignores the fact that many overseas Koreans have strong ties and frequent interactions with Korea and may need to visit the country for various reasons, such as family, business, education, or culture. Third, there is a lack of transparency and regulatory abuse in the healthcare sector. Fourth, it creates a double standard by exempting some long-term visa holders, such as immigrant spouses, students, permanent residents, and migrant workers, from the rule and allowing them to receive health insurance benefits immediately upon entry.

F-4 Visa Holders Unfairly Excluded:

Another problematic aspect of the policy is the exclusion of F-4 visa holders from health insurance benefits. F-4 visas are issued to overseas Koreans who have acquired foreign citizenship and allow them to stay in Korea for up to two years without restrictions on their activities. F-4 visa holders are considered long-term residents and contribute to the Korean economy and society through their businesses, investments, and cultural exchanges.

Many overseas Korean visa holders feel that they are being discriminated against by the Korean government, and they are protesting strongly. For example, Kim, a Canadian citizen, has been doing business between Korea and Canada for a long time. Recently, he has been looking forward to the services of K-medical as he has been granted an F-4 visa. However, the fact that K-medical has state-of-the-art medical equipment and medical services that utilize Korea’s best technology has created difficulties in his schedule. He pointed out, “It is unfair that F-4 visa holders who can stay for two years are not free to receive health insurance benefits, while other long-term visa holders can receive health insurance benefits upon entering the country.  

The policy should be revised to be more fair and inclusive:

South Korea’s health insurance policy for overseas Koreans is unfair and inconsistent and should be revised to be more fair and inclusive. The policy should recognize the diversity and complexity of the overseas Korean community and respect their rights and needs as compatriots. The policy should also address the underlying issues of the health care system, such as the quality, cost and regulation of medical services and the sustainability and efficiency of the health insurance system. The policy should not impose arbitrary and discriminatory rules on overseas Koreans, but rather provide them with reasonable and flexible options for accessing health care in Korea. In this way, the policy can foster a more positive and mutually beneficial relationship between Korea and its diaspora.

 

 

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