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[EDITORIALS] Health Tax Is a Bad Idea

Mar 28,2001
Health and Welfare Minister Kim Won-gil hinted at introducing a new tax to address the financial crisis of the National Health Insurance Corporation, raising doubts about the government's measures to combat the problem.

During a meeting with local reporters at the ruling party's headquarters Wednesday, Mr. Kim said, "I do not rule out an objective tax." Asked whether taxpayers would resist new levies, he said, "What the people really resist is the collapse of health insurance system (due to bankruptcy)."

Of course, Mr. Kim stressed that the idea was his personal opinion and it had not been considered officially. Given that he is a top policymaker of the country's health and welfare administration, however, it would be prudent to take his remark not as a mere personal idea but one which had been coordinated within the government or between the government and the ruling party.

In short, we believe that slapping on a new tax is the wrong recipe. It is a measure of bureaucratic expediency, by which the government is trying to cover deficits of the National Health Insurance system with taxpayers' money in an attempt to avert a public backlash that is expected to arise from a big hike in insurance premiums. A new special tax may not only increase people's tax burden but also hurt corporate competitiveness. It is also out of line with the principle that those who benefit should pay and against the purpose of the social insurance system; healthy persons who do not need medical services would have to pay additional subscription fees or taxes.

It was not long ago that the Ministry of Health and Welfare officially denied that such a new tax was being considered when some ruling-party members raised the issue. On March 19, the Millennium Democratic Party also pledged that it would not push for a health tax. Then a new health minister and a new chief policymaker of the ruling party took office, but that does not mean the government can simply nullify what has already been announced.

The government said it plans to announce comprehensive measures. It should find a way to minimize our burden and improve the balance sheet of the National Health Insurance by preventing the waste of its money.



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