The bald facts
Ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has vowed medical insurance coverage for hair-loss treatment. The DP got excited about the response to the campaign pledge from the online community of bald people. The party has launched a video campaign called, “Lee Jae-myung can implant!” As many as 10 million Koreans worry about loss of hair, and many in the younger generation — who will have the deciding vote in the March 9 election — are also fretting over their hairlines.
There are two prescribed medications for hair loss, Minoxidil and Finasteride. The latter is also used to treat men with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Men get a prescription for insurance-covered prostatic hyperplasia to treat hair loss. It would be great if the state can help ease the concerns over loss of hair. But national medical insurance cannot be a panacea for every problem. It should have priorities as restricted as its resources.
Due to a large deficit in the national medical insurance system, even cancer patients must shoulder huge costs for treatment. Under revised terms, newly diagnosed cancer patients must pay even more to get a second level of anticancer drugs. Third-generation immunotherapy taken once every three weeks costs 5 million won ($4,152) per session. Doctors rage at the idea of the government paying for hair loss treatment when people are dying of cancer because they can’t afford the treatemtn.
According to the National Health Insurance Corp., its debt ratio will hit 132 percent by 2023 due to a surge in coverage under the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. Medical costs per each senior citizen are expected to average 7.6 million won in 2030, double the level in 2015. Yet the DP is proposing increased coverage for dental implants.
Politicians promise anything they can to buy votes. But DP candidate Lee is setting a new standard for both promises and flip-flops. He withdrew the idea of universal disaster relief due to the public’s negative response. He also has been blurry about his previous idea of imposing tax on land ownership.
A leader must take responsibility for his words. None of the candidates explain how they will fund their extravagant campaign promises. Tax hikes will be inevitable amid a thinning working population and increasing welfare demands. But who wants to talk about that? Candidates should beware: fooling voters isn’t as easy as it looks.