[EDITORIAL] Welfare In Disarray

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[EDITORIAL] Welfare In Disarray

It is worrisome that the wide repercussions of the health care system's financial collapse may trigger popular resistance to the government's welfare system plans. According to a report carried by IHT-JAI on Monday, the Korea Development Institute forecast a surge in welfare expenditures to reach the level of other advanced countries in 20 years and lead to a welfare crisis here. Researchers' analysis showed that pension payments are excessively high and that the basic livelihood guarantee benefits are too high for our nation's capacity. Already there is concern over the unreliability of the pension system as military pension reserves have already been depleted and some research predicts the national pension scheme to go into the red in 30 years. The financial crisis in the health care system having sensitized the people, their distrust of the government runs rather deep. Then, voices claiming, "I will take care of my health and later life on my own without entrusting it to the government" may be heard. Already, according to some reports, people are complaining, "I will not pay my health insurance and not go to the hospital."

The people do not trust the government to run a proper welfare system. The two main complaints about the system are the following. First, there is distrust of the government's management skills. Some examples are its underestimation of the effects that medical reform would have on the finances of the health care system, the merger of the workplace-based and regional insurance cooperatives without measures to handle side effects of the integration and the use of the national pension system to bolster the stock market. Simply paying more premiums will not solve such lax welfare administration. Second, it is questionable whether at least the money paid in, not to mention the full benefits, will be forthcoming. There is also discontent over the fact that ultimately, people will have to pay more to prop up the already depleted pension reserves for civil servants and soldiers and the financially ailing health insurance system. Last year, when the government revised the civil servant pension scheme, the bureaucrats' labor union brought the matter to the Constitutional Court, and when the government spoke of hikes in health insurance premiums, civic groups protested.

We do not deny the government's role in promoting a social welfare system. The consolidation of a social welfare network during corporate restructuring is imperative. Though social welfare expenditures are somewhat excessive, on the average they still lag behind those of other advanced countries. What is worrisome is the unreasonably speedy increase in social welfare expenditures and the surging distrust of the government's ability to manage the system. Before such distrust and discontent evolve into civil resistance, the government should review the health care and pension systems comprehensively. Most of all, the finances of all the social insurance schemes should be made transparent. Absorbing the pension funds into the budget system to have the National Assembly supervise it is an alternative. The governance of the welfare system should also be reformed, keeping in mind that insurance and pensions are taxes paid by the sweat of the people. Also, introducing private insurance and corporate pension schemes while maintaining the social welfare system and having the people choose additional services should also be considered. Why should we repeat the same mistakes made by other industrialized countries which, after their own social welfare crises and numerous trials and errors, are moving toward taking the role of the private sector seriously?
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