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South Korea: Universal Health Plan and Citizens Abroad

(Nov. 19, 2008) Article 5 of the National Health Insurance Act of the Republic of Korea states that Korean nationals who reside in the country are national health insurance policyholders, unless their employers provide other health insurance. Recently, due to the increasing number of cases of overseas Koreans coming back to the country for a short time in order to receive expensive medical care, the cost of medical care for Korean expatriates has rapidly escalated. In 2007, medical care in Korea cost the national plan altogether 41.2 billion won (about US$ 31.6 million). These returning overseas Koreans pay only a small amount in premiums, such as perhaps one month's premium (60,000 won, about US$46), and return to the country where they live after the medical treatment. The government plans to change the regulations so that Koreans resident abroad must pay three months' worth of premiums when they become national insurance policyholders. (Ilhyon Chan, Kenko hoken: zaigai kokumin e no tekiyo, hokenryo 3 kagetsu bun choshu e [Health insurance: application to citizens abroad, three months' premiums will be collected], CHOSUNILBO, Oct. 8, 2008, available at″ http: w21data html news 200809 200809300008.html?>