Hopes dashed, again

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Hopes dashed, again

Hopes for a market in for-profit health care facilities have once again been dashed.

Chin Soo-hee, the welfare minister nominee, said in a confirmation hearing that licenses to operate for-profit medical facilities will not be issued unless problems with the current health care system improve.

Many had expected that entrepreneurs without doctor’s licenses and for-profit organizations would be allowed to establish and invest in hospital chains in order to advance health care services during the incumbent conservative administration.

But prospects of that happening now seem bleak.

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance had aggressively been pushing for the introduction of for-profits in the health care industry in order to hone the industry’s efficacy and competitiveness and create highly-valued jobs.

After former Health Minister Jeon Jae-hee, who strongly opposed commercialization of the health care industry, was replaced, the Finance Ministry had hoped it now had a chance to make its dream come true

But the newly appointed minister has echoed her predecessor’s stance, saying that for-profit hospitals could result in a decrease in the availability of health care for underprivileged patients and undermine the national health insurance policy.

Moreover, such hospitals would be out of tune with the signature “working-class friendly” platform adopted by the Lee Myung-bak administration for the latter half of its term.

But victimizing a vast market, which could generate enormous economic value in the future, for the sake of ideology does little to help ordinary people in the long run.

The appropriate role for a government that seeks to protect the population is a solution that mixes welfare benefits with a policy to advance the for-profit health care industry.

Our doctors, who are among the country’s brightest citizens, have already gained a reputation overseas for their capabilities and competence.

Now foreign doctors have begun contacting their local counterparts to treat their patients. Despite the various restrictions, some 60,000 foreigners came to the country for medical treatment last year alone.

Once the red tape is lifted, we may become a medical powerhouse in the region, rivaling Singapore, Thailand and India.

We urge the government, lawmakers and civic groups to see the subject from a broader and more pragmatic perspective, and reconsider the benefits that for-profit medical facilities could bring to us all.
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