Korea to Revise Health Insurance Policy for Foreign Workers [UPDATED]

UPDATE: This article, based upon information reported by Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday, (Korea time) has caused some readers to express confusion as to what the new policy will be and what effects it will have.

Until further elaboration can be made, Branding in Asia will leave the original article as is, with the caveat that clarification is needed as to policy specifics beyond what has already been reported.

We will keep you updated as information becomes available.


UPDATE 2: Here is a report from ArirangKorea’s national English TV station.

The transcript states: “The health ministry says the insurance law has been amended to prevent people from entering country under false pretenses to enjoy the health insurance benefits, only to leave soon afterward. (sic)

But in cases of an apparent long-term stay, such as study abroad or marriage, foreigners can register for insurance from the day they arrive in the country.”

Update 3: From the Korea Herald


“The current National Health Insurance Act allows foreign nationals and Koreans living in other countries to qualify for the national health insurance program after residing here for at least three months. Those who the government deems “will clearly stay for three months or more” — for reasons including studying, marriage and job seeking — are allowed to sign up on the day of arrival.

But the revised version of the act — kicking in Oct. 1 — will exempt job seekers from the list of people who can get immediate permission to get health insurance, the Health Ministry said.”

Original Article

Korea is often praised for its effective, yet inexpensive health care system. If you’re heading there for work in the future, however, make sure you sort out your health care situation before arriving to avoid possible gaps in coverage.

Starting in October, a revision to national health care policies will require foreign nationals entering the country on a work visa to wait three months before they are eligible to apply for national health insurance.

According to a report by Yonhap News on Tuesday, the changes, put forth by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and National Health Insurance Corporation, stem from insufficient contributions to the system by foreign nationals.

Ministry statistics show that from 2011 to June of this year, 258,249 foreign nationals received 20.78 billion won (US$17.3 million) worth of healthcare services without paying an adequate share of insurance premiums.

According to Yonhap:

As a rule, foreign nationals who enter the country have to wait three months before they are eligible for insurance coverage and they have to make monthly payments on the 25th of every month afterwards for the coverage to be valid.

This rule, however, does not apply to people with work visas, those entering the country to study, and those married to a South Korean citizen.

In addition, the government even gives 30-50 percent discounts to foreign nationals depending on what kind of visas they hold. A person holding a D-2 study visa can get 50 percent off in terms of the insurance payments they have to make.

From 2012 through 2014, this preferential health insurance payment arrangement equaled 4 billion won (US$3.3 million) in savings for foreigners, with some 101,162 people and households paying less, it said.

The ministry said in a statement:

“Under the changes, people with work visas will be excluded from the early preferential benefit scheme, and will have to wait like the others.”

Information was not as yet available as to what options would be available to foreign workers no longer able to access the preferential system but still seeking government health coverage during their initial three months of employment in Korea.

It was, however, additionally reported that both those married to a South Korean national and international students studying in Korea, will continue to have access to the preferential arrangement system.




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