[EDITORIALS]Health insurance is broken

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[EDITORIALS]Health insurance is broken

It has been estimated that the employee health insurance program will record a surplus of 981.7 billion won ($817 million) this year. That would be about 10 times higher than the surplus of the regional insurance programs, which cover all other Koreans. While it is good that the health insurance programs are in the black, those who are members of the employee insurance program are carrying the bulk of the load. The grim prediction that members of the employee insurance program would have to subsidize the regional programs to pay off their massive accumulated deficit seems to be coming true.
The rate of increase in premiums this year was 8.5 percent. But the actual rate of increase for salaried workers was over 30 percent, taking into account last year’s wage increases of nearly 12 percent and overpayments of 700 billion won that were eventually refunded. But premiums rose by only 11 percent for regional health plan members; it is easy for them to hide their incomes because they are not wage earners, and the secondary tax base, property and automobiles, is taxed at only 4.5 percent annually. The result of all this is that employee premiums have doubled in the past four years, while fees at regional plans have risen only 50 percent.
This unreasonable structure has been with us since July 2000, when medical insurance “reform” went into effect. Employees have been easily victimized and a backlash could be coming if things are not changed.
The government must develop a unified health plan. Although the finances of the two plans have been merged, separate accounts should be maintained until this problem is solved. Seoul must come up with some way to ferret out the true income of self-employed people and the calculation of premiums must be equalized. Those who underreport their income to the health plan should be thrown in jail.
Equity is as important as sound finances. The government must listen to the dissatisfaction of employees, who pay more taxes and more health insurance premiums than the self-employed. This is a one-sided sacrifice, and it must be fixed.
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