[Letter to the editor]Public health is not a commodity

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[Letter to the editor]Public health is not a commodity

It is quite true that today’s world calls for free markets. The necessity of the “invisible hand” is growing in almost every part of the globe. Countries are opening their markets, letting commodity and capital flow freely. Korea, to meet the demand, is negotiating free trade agreements with many countries.
The incoming President Lee Myung-bak is pro-market; he may be the best choice for Korea today. However, it is very disappointing that he is trying to apply market ideology to a sector whose purpose has to do with human lives ― the public health insurance system. In other words, he is attempting to capitalize on human dignity.
President-elect Lee mentioned he will seek to privatize public health insurance. That is, it will be the corporations seeking self-interest ― profit ― that will be dealing with health insurance, not the government.
It goes without saying that privatization can help in innovating and making undertakings competitive.
Yet, it is not the key to solve everything. The government has a responsibility to take care of public health, as stated in the Constitution.
In the United States, about 50 million people live without any health insurance today. That means they can actually die because they do not have enough money. Many are not dying because of severe illness; just a minor illness can turn serious because they aren’t able to receive treatment due to a lack of money.
Those who have experienced living in the United States will definitely remember how hard it is for one to go to a hospital, due to the cost. In contrast, Korea is providing a relatively reasonable health insurance by the government. Although it may not be perfect, it is much better than privatizing insurance; it is open to every citizen.
People can get treatment at low prices. Have you ever been to a dentist? Because dental care is not covered by public insurance, we all know how expensive it is. Do we want all the hospitals to be like that?
I cannot agree more about the importance of accepting free markets.
That is why I support the market system and the FTAs we are seeking.
But human dignity is a sacred area that should not be touched by capitalistic ideology. Sure, privatizing will increase diversity and the competitiveness of insurance systems. However, that is only for the haves. Saving the economy is important. But for whom must the government save the economy?
Kang Yoon Seung, a student
at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
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