[EDITORIALS]Promotion Charges Flawed

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[EDITORIALS]Promotion Charges Flawed

The government and the ruling party said recently that they decided to steeply raise health promotion charges on cigarettes from the current 2 won (less than one cent) per pack to about 150 won per pack, in a bid to support local health insurance chapters that are on the verge of financial collapse. Tobacco prices are expected to go up in July, considering the government's schedule to pass the bill in the present special session of the National Assembly after the completion of working level talks.

But we found the initiative too convenient and expedient. The attempt also contradicts the government's pledge to gradually reduce special purpose taxes. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it would increase its funding on local health insurance chapters by 50 percent at the end of May, as it makes public its comprehensive measures to financially stabilize the health insurance system. The ministry said an additional 1.4 trillion won was needed for the purpose. Around the announcement, the ruling camp indicated its intention to raise health promotion charges, but facing a strong resistance from the general public, stepped back, saying it is just reviewing the feasibility. More recently, the ruling camp said it would compile an additional budget amounting to 5 trillion won, including 700 billion won for local health insurance chapters. A government official explained that the allotment is inevitable, when the government has not payed as much as 600 billion won to hopitals and clinics which treated the low-income people covered by the government- supported health insurance. But isn't it the government's intention to redress the poor financial status of the health insurance system by taking money out of taxpayers' pockets, if it raises health promotion charges by 75 times?

The government has repeatedly emphasized that the separation of doctors' and pharmacists' roles are necessary to prevent the abusive and wrongful uses of drugs. The rate that outpatients receive injection treatment has gone down to 54 percent as of February after the separation was enforced, compared with a 60.8 percent in May last year, but the number is still high. Who can we say are the real beneficiaries?

The government and the ruling party should come up with fundamental solutions and not rely on stop-gap measures like drawing money out of the innocent peoples' pockets. Stop treating the general public like an easy victim.
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