[EDITORIALS]Treating medical insuranceThe Ministry of Health and Welfare announced its plan yesterday to improve the system of medical care forlow-income citizens. The draft includes a regulation that forces patients who frequent medical institutions too often to go only to a designated clinic, hospital or pharmacy.
Medical aid for the underprivileged is a basic duty of a welfare state. But taxpayer money has been wasted due to some beneficiaries who think that they can get as much as they want from the government, some medical institutions that lack ethics and the mismanagement of the system by the government.
According to a government investigation, the problems in medical welfare were shocking. Some people took advantage of patients with mental health problems in order to receive thousands of prescriptions and obtain the medicine at certain pharmacies. One person received 54 prescriptions a day from 27 different clinics or hospitals. Drug abuse was commonplace.
The budget for medical aid last year was 3 trillion won ($ 3.1 billion), up 60 percept from three years before. But the budget was still insufficient to pay for medical care. Some payments for medical treatment had been suspended for a while. When the management of the system has many problems like this, an increased budget will not be an answer. No matter how large the budget might be, it will always be exceeded by expenditures.
The number of beneficiaries of medical care has increased every year, and now covers 17.6 million persons. Pregnant women, the disabled and senior citizens will soon become beneficiaries as well, and more diseases will be covered by national health insurance. Thus, the burden on the people will increase.
The government has been preparing for this. It should prepare good measures, including the introduction of a special management system as a way to increase the efficiency and transparency of medical aid. Medical institutions that commit wrongdoings should be investigated.
A report at the National Assembly revealed that quite a large number of people were categorized as requiring insurance while actually being able to pay their insurance fees. If four national insurance groups ― health insurance, unemployment insurance, workmen’s industrial accident compensation and the national pension ― are made into one, these people will be able to be screened so money will no longer be wasted.