[EDITORIALS]Better health care with changeThere will be hospitals that will not accept National Health Insurance. The Ministry of Health and Welfare is studying a plan that will allow hospitals to not accept the insurance. We welcome the plan on the grounds that it will diversify medical services. Instead of a “compulsory designational system” under which all hospitals are designated as National Health Insurance hospitals, a new system that will allow hospitals to decide whether to sign a contract with National Health Insurance is going to be introduced. The ministry is still taking a discreet position on the issue, but medical community and medical reform promoters welcome the idea.
When the new system is introduced, it will stimulate competition among hospitals and the quality of medical service and competitiveness will be enhanced. Patients will have more service choices and get advanced medical service and medical care tailored to their needs.
There are problems too. As low-income people will be excluded from the benefit of high-quality medical care, social disharmony will grow. It should be considered that at an early stage of the current National Health Insurance system, the “contract designation system” was once tried but cancelled after creating confusion The Constitutional Court ruled the current “compulsory system” constitutional two years ago.
But the environment of the medical market has changed drastically. There are hospitals closing down and signs of oversupply. The domestic medical market reached the scale of 30 trillion won ($28.7 billion) last year. It is already too big to be standardized.
With improvements in the quality of life, the demand for medical services is also diversifying. Many people raise questions why use of highly advanced medical technology has the same fees as plain services. Last year more than 1 trillion won was spent on medical care overseas.
The National Health Insurance program has narrowly escaped going into the red in the past but recorded a 1.5 trillion won surplus last year. It can now turn to consumer-oriented service from hospital-centered service.
We hope that the new system will introduce competition without disturbing the current system which is covered by the National Health Insurance. If the government and the medical community cooperate, they can find a mutually acceptable solution.