[EDITORIALS]Remove the medical shacklesThe nation’s medical system is failing because the government continues to control the market, ignoring economic principles. A young dentist said in an interview that he wanted to leave the country and open a clinic abroad because it was so hard to expand his operations under Korea’s tight controls. That shows the current status of our medical services clearly. They are fancy in appearance; anyone can receive a medical examination for 3,000 won.
But they are festering underneath the fancy veneer. A patient waits for three hours for a three-minute check-up. Whether it is a rookie doctor or a physician with decades of experience, the bill is the same. National insurance rigorously limits the types and cost of treatment. Most new medicines and treatments are only given to a few seriously ill patients, and even then with limits.
The wealthy crowd into famous hospitals abroad. One foreign hospital has 10 Korean-language interpreters. Every year, hundreds of billions of won are spent overseas in return for better medical services.
Medical practitioners also have complaints. Because they are not allowed to operate medical services for profit, it is impossible to invest as much as is necessary. Talented doctors flock to dermatology and cosmetic surgery, not covered by the national insurance; the nation lacks capable manpower to perform vital treatments such as heart diseases and cancer. That is why hospitals and clinics are implementing stopgap measures to raise profits. That is why talks spread that medical treatments raise deficits, but mortuary and luxurious examinations raise profits.
Because of its special nature, medical care is a public good that must be controlled by the government. But the rigid policies should be changed to adopt some market principles in order to accommodate growing demands and the era of open markets. The government should consider allowing profit-making medical institutions and private medical insurance. Such policies should be adopted in special economic zones, at least. Conflict between classes can be resolved by reinforcing the public medical care services. A larger pie has more to share, and that logic applies to medical service, too. We must reform medical policy so that rich foreign patients will flood Korean hospitals.