U.S. Medicare and South Korea’s aging populationThe United States has a shorter life expectancy than South Korea, according to well-known and widely published data. The U.S. population is approximately 6.5 times larger than that of South Korea. In the U.S., over 9,000 people turn 65 years old every day. The reason that 65 years old is relevant: it is the age that a U.S. citizen is entitled to Medicare, which is the U.S. system of providing a first layer of health insurance for senior citizens. The problem is burdening the U.S. with a nearly uncontrollable fiscal problem.
South Korea’s financial development has been impressive by any measure. As Korean conglomerates are now well-known in every part of the globe, Korea has firmly established itself as a first-world nation. That said, it will also face first-world social issues. The issue exists now and will only worsen.
As a nation with a substantial aging population, South Korea will invariably face a similar challenge, with respect to retirement savings and senior citizen health care costs. Unlike the United States, South Koreans, generally speaking, do not carry the notion that Social Security and Medicare are “rights.” The notion of “heroic medicine,” prolonging life at any cost, is more prevalent in the United States when compared to South Korea. In addition, the cost of skilled nursing facilities, otherwise known as nursing homes, is far less expensive in South Korea than in the United States.
That said, health care costs for retirees can bankrupt households. South Korea must take measures to prevent the “U.S. Medicare Problem” because it does not have the financial resources or flexibility of the American economy. Furthermore, this issue has dominated American politics, and as a result, it is very unlikely that large, sweeping change, will occur anytime soon. South Korea must avoid a similar quagmire.
Jae W. Oh
Author of “Maximize Your Medicare: Understanding
Medicare, Protecting Your Health, and Minimizing Costs.”