[EDITORIALS]Insurance Remedy Only Temporary

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[EDITORIALS]Insurance Remedy Only Temporary

A hike in health insurance premiums for corporate employees is expected next year, and will likely create a stir among those affected. The Ministry of Health and Welfare recently announced that next year's increase would be about 9 to 11 percent. The existing policy to reduce premiums for corporate employees will expire at the end of this year. With next year's wage increase, the actual growth rate of health insurance premiums will be 19 percent - in some cases more than twice the current premiums.

In July 2000 and in January 2001, the government exempted an average of 5,693 won ($4.40) per person for a corporate employee whose premium had gone up unreasonably. Of the 6.39 million policyholders in the corporate health insurance program, 4.7 million benefited from the discount. The government evidently employed a stopgap measure to pacify the corporate employees' protest against integrating corporate health insurance with local health insurance. As a result, some employees saw a discount higher than their monthly premiums, while others paid higher premiums than did their senior managers, who earn higher wages.

For the new increase, 100,000 corporate employees will have to pay more than double what they are paying now for premiums. The ministry is currently considering exempting the amount exceeding the 100-percent hike. Still, 1 million corporate employees, who joined the national health insurance program this year, have to pay as high as twice the premium compared to that of existing policyholders earning the same wages. Because an imbalance between policyholders remains, the ministry's exemption plan is only a temporary remedy.

Preventing the corporate health insurance reserve from diminishing is the No. 1 priority. A hike in the health insurance premium should be next. Even if a moderate increase is unavoidable, it should be done step by step.
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