Gov’t boosts coverage for 4 categories of illnesses

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Gov’t boosts coverage for 4 categories of illnesses

The government yesterday announced a major overhaul of the national health insurance program to broaden coverage of expenses related to the so-called four major illnesses designated by the Park Geun-hye government.

The four major illnesses are cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and 138 incurable diseases including myocardiopathy and Crohn’s disease.

Under the strengthened insurance plan, which will go into full effect by 2017, medical treatment of the four illnesses, including MRI examinations, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and materials used for surgeries will be covered by national insurance up to 95 percent of their costs.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare estimates there are 1.59 million patients suffering from the four illnesses in the country and each pays an average of 940,000 won ($814) annually for medical treatments.

For the 138 incurable diseases, the government estimates about 590,000 people in the country suffer from them.

“It is estimated that out-of-pocket medical expenses for four major illness patients will be reduced by 64 percent to 340,000 won annually under the revised program,” said the Welfare Ministry in a statement released yesterday.

Medical procedures such as plastic surgery or those for beauty treatments not related to curing illness will remain uncovered by national insurance.

“Strengthening the national insurance system to cover the four major illnesses is one of the main policy drives undertaken by the Park Geun-hye government. Therefore, we need to come up with ways to speed up the process,” said Prime Minister Chung Hong-won during a welfare policy committee meeting yesterday at the central government complex in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

The prime minister added the government will work to avoid increasing universal health insurance fees by effectively managing the state insurance budget.

During the presidential election race last year, Park promised to provide better coverage for the four major illnesses.

Her administration has earmarked 2.1 trillion won to extend benefits by 2017, thus spending about 500 billion won each year.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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