New act cracks down on illegal medical brokersThe Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Monday regulations to crack down on agencies and clinics illegally recruiting foreign patients and tighten procedures for medical institutions aiming to open branches overseas. The Health Ministry gave notice of the new act which was announced at the end of last year as the government moves to bolster the medical tourism industry and will enforce it starting in June.
Under the regulations, unregistered brokers who attempt to attract foreign patients could face up to three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won ($25,257), while anyone who reports an illegal broker may be rewarded up to 10 million won.
The ministry has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Police Agency for its cooperation in cracking down on illegal brokers.
Medical institutions and clinics or agencies seeking to legally recruit patients abroad must be registered with the government and provide or post relevant certificates of registration at their practices. Should they fail to do so, they could face a fine of up to a 5 million won.
The ministry plans to conduct a survey of agencies and clinics regarding their fees and post them on the Korea Health Industry Development Institute website.
Additionally, medical institutions that treat foreign patients will have to possess medical malpractice liability insurance that can compensate more than 100 million won per year for clinics and small hospitals and more than 200 million won for general hospitals.
Starting in April, counters at airports, harbors and Medical Korea support centers will be able to provide tax refunds for foreign patients receiving cosmetic plastic surgery here.
A Medical Korea Support Center will open in Myeong-dong, a popular tourist area in downtown Seoul, to provide information on medical services, translation, visa consultations and legal services for foreign patients.
Medical institutions that plan to expand their services overseas will need to report the time period, region and other details to authorities.
Business officials who fail to do so within 45 days of finalizing a contract or opening or acquiring an overseas branch could face up to a year in prison or a fine up to 10 million won.
The government has been working on policies since last year to increase the transparency in Korea’s medical services industry and make information and support more readily available for foreigners seeking treatment here. The overall aim of those policies is to increase the number of foreign patients to the country.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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