Korea announces new residency requirements for foreigners using health insurance

Revisions to the bill also include some exceptions

Korea announces new residency requirements for foreigners using health insurance

Life & Health

By Kenneth Araullo

Under a revision to the Health Insurance Act of Korea, foreigners must establish residency in the country for at least six months to qualify as dependents of the primary subscribers.

The amendment, which is expected to be implemented next year, outlines that foreigners must “stay in Korea for at least six months” to be eligible for registration as dependents of individuals residing in South Korea. The amendment recently received approval from a parliamentary subcommittee on Sept. 21 and is currently awaiting review by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

A report from The Korea Herald revealed that this revision specifies that direct family members of a worker in South Korea, regardless of their nationality, can be registered as dependents of the health insurance subscriber only if their annual income falls below KRW20 million (approximately £14,700).

The proposed change in legislation is aimed at addressing the issue of foreign workers' family members receiving health insurance coverage even when they do not reside in South Korea. Reports have highlighted numerous cases where foreign family members, including parents of subscribers to Korea's universal health insurance system, visit Korea solely to access health insurance benefits like medical treatment and surgery, despite not being permanent residents.

Pertinent to these cases is the huge number of Chinese citizens seemingly exploiting this loophole, with this demographic notably accounting for most of the foreigners benefitting from South Korea’s national health insurance scheme.

Despite the restrictions, the bill will include stipulations for underage children and spouses of foreign workers, allowing them to be covered by the national health insurance before completing the requisite six-month residency period. This exception will also apply to foreigners who have immigrated to South Korea following marriage to a Korean national or those holding a student visa.

Assuming that the proposed revision is promulgated, it could be implemented as early as March next year, pending the plenary session's approval at the end of this year.

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