Chinese nationals surpass other foreigners in Korea’s national health insurance program

Expenditure for foreigners steadily increased over the past few years

Chinese nationals surpass other foreigners in Korea’s national health insurance program

Life & Health

By Kenneth Araullo

Chinese nationals were the top spenders among foreign health insurance dependents in Korea’s universal healthcare program in 2022, health insurance data revealed.

The healthcare funds expended on Chinese national dependents amounted to KRW1.95 million (US$1,467) for each individual, and this spending has shown a steady rise over the past five years, as per health insurance data on foreigners from the National Health Insurance Service

The total number of health insurance dependents based on nationality at the end of the preceding year was 189,947, with Chinese nationals comprising the majority at 110,753 (58.3%), according to a Business Korea report.  Among the 568,506 health insurance members who were Chinese nationals, 117,753 were dependents, indicating that one in five was a dependent.

The next highest number of foreign dependents was Vietnamese, totalling 7,514, which was an 11-fold difference compared to Chinese nationals. Following with significant gaps were the United States (6,967) and Uzbekistan and Russia (5,014 each) in comparison to China.

Earlier this year, the country opened discussions for possible amendments to laws as concerns grow over the increasing number of foreigners abusing loopholes in the country’s private healthcare insurance services.

A clear gap

In 2022, foreigners’ overall medical expenditures in Korea totalled KRW1.5944 trillion, which was approximately 1.5 times higher than the KRW998 billion recorded in 2018. During this period, contributions to the National Health Insurance Service increased from KRW748.8 billion to KRW1.1838 trillion.

Out of this total amount, domestic medical expenses for Chinese nationals accounted for KRW1.1192 trillion, with the National Health Insurance Service’s contribution reaching KRW303.1 billion. Specifically, the contributions for Chinese nationals were KRW215.9 billion, constituting 71.2% of the total. On average, each Chinese dependent received KRW1.95 million in healthcare insurance money, surpassing the KRW1.1 million (77.3%) average for dependents of other nationalities.

The national health insurance’s balance for the previous year revealed a surplus of KRW556 billion when comparing premiums paid by foreigners and contributions from the National Health Insurance Service. However, focusing on Chinese nationals alone, there was a deficit of KRW229 billion.

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