Rationalize our medical insurance coverage

Home > Opinion > Editorials

print dictionary print

Rationalize our medical insurance coverage

The Korean medical sector has been called for structural overhaul to address blind spots despite its world-class standards after a nurse in her 30s fell on cerebral hemorrhage at Seoul Asan Medical Center, one of the country’s top hospitals, while on duty and died because she had to be transported to another hospital. The tragic death has underscored the urgent need to address the chronic shortage of medical staff in surgical areas being avoided by medical students and young doctors and rationalize the current medical insurance coverage.

Claiming that it took all necessary emergency steps, the medical center attributed her death to her excess internal bleeding. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has embarked on an investigation. Instead of stoking unnecessary wrangling between doctors and nurses, the ministry must find practical solutions to prevent such accidents in the future. Experts advise first addressing chronic medical staff shortages in particular fields and rationalizing the medical insurance coverage system.

Due to fast aging, surgeries on cerebral hemorrhage surged 55 percent over the last four years to 13,226 cases last year. Veteran actress Kang Soo-yeon recently died at age 55 from brain hemorrhage. Despite the spike in emergency cases, the number of doctors remains the same. The medical community underscores the need for more surgical doctors in their 40s capable of performing emergency brain surgery.

At the medical center, three brain surgeons have been taking shifts to work and operate. Two who were capable of performing the operation to stop subarachnoid hemorrhage in the case of the ill-fortunate nurse had been attending an overseas conference during a summer break. All top five hospitals in Seoul have just two or three brain surgical doctors. The situation in smaller or regional hospitals is certainly worse.

Experts point to excessively low insurance reimbursement for brain surgeries. Doctors shun the surgeries due to high risks and low returns. American brain doctors are paid 10 times more than their Korean counterparts for performing operations on cerebral hemorrhage.

Doctors in the neural surgical department often prefer the spinal disease category over the cerebral category, as it makes more money. The problem cannot be solved just by increasing medical school quota or creating a government-run medical school.

Under the Moon Jae-in administration, the national health insurance covered MRIs even for a light headache. Such populist program has only reduced funding for areas that require more urgent support. The health and welfare ministry must take more fundamental actions to address the chronic shortage of doctors and medical staff in neurosurgical area.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)