“The Yoon government is ill-prepared for rising medical costs”

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The Yoon Suk-yeol government has put health policies in the right direction. Yet they lacked detailed preparations for rising medical costs amid an aging population and unclear use of physician assistants, public health experts said.


Experts raised concerns about the sustainability of health care in Korea at a conference hosted by the Korea Academy of Health Policy and Management on Friday.


Public health experts raised concerns about the viability of Korea’s national health insurance at a conference on Friday.


Park Eun-cheol Professor of Preventive Medicine at Yonsei University delivered a keynote address on the direction of the new government’s health policies.


Park stressed that the healthcare system should be innovated during the five years of the Yoon administration and proposed the establishment of a “health insurance innovation center”.


Park joined Yoon’s presidential election camp and drew an overview of health policy.


“Due to an aging population and low birth rate, the country’s financial resources for health are expected to decline, while medical costs will rise,” Park said. “If there is no innovation in the healthcare system in the next five years of the Yoon government, the whole healthcare system may collapse.”


Healthcare innovation is needed to support those in need of medical services and provide community-based, people-centered and integrated medical protection, he continued.


Rather than pushing for a few particular items for five years, the government could innovate the healthcare system by setting up a privately-proposed “health insurance innovation center”.


To maintain the viability of the national health insurance policy, the government will inevitably have to raise insurance premiums, another expert said.


Professor Jeong Hyoung-sun of health administration at Yonsei University said total medical cost was important in health policies.


“Current medical expenditure in Korea has reached 160 trillion won. This change is incredibly fast. However, there is still room for growth in medical spending,” Jeong said.


So far, the government has signed the health insurance contract every year using a “conversion index method” and has increased health insurance premiums by 4% over the past 10 years.


Low health insurance costs have been tolerated for the “normalization” of health care in Korea.


However, given the aging population, health insurance premiums were too low and the government should consider raising them, Jeong said.


Professor Lee Key-hyo of Inje University’s Graduate School of Public Health said medical costs accounted for 8.5% of the country’s GDP.


However, in several years, the proportion could reach 11 to 12 percent, which could devastate the lives of Koreans, he warned.


Lee said dealing with the medical cost issue will be an important task for the Yoon government.


The Yoon administration faces the problems of an aging population, rising medical costs and stagnating economic growth, he said.


“It’s a critical time to prepare for a tougher time,” he added.


A third expert noted that the new government should clarify whether the use of physician assistants is legal before it feeds the workforce into the medical community.


Professor Yoon Seok-jun, of preventive medicine at Korea University College of Medicine, said the Yoon government’s health policies did not include any solution to medical resource shortages, including manpower. and hospital beds.


Yoon said small hospitals had used physician assistants extensively without making it clear whether it was legal or illegal for the past 20 years.


“The new government rarely talked about it. We need clear and detailed guidelines,” he said.

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