South Korea: Gov't mulls raising health insurance premiums for sustainability

| 06 Feb 2024

South Korea will begin discussions on raising state health insurance premiums in order to make the programme sustainable amid the low birth rate and aging population, said the health ministry recently.

The government has outlined the second comprehensive state health insurance programme for the 2024-2028 period, with the aim of revising up the monthly premium limit of 8% for salaried workers to reflect soaring medical expenses, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. 

The latest plan comes as the country's birth rate continues to fall and its elderly population aged 70 and older surpassed those in their 20s for the first time last year amid an economic slowdown. 

The government said it will start discussions to determine the "proper rate" of monthly premiums, referring to premium rates in other countries, as the insurance program's sustainability is at risk over time. 

The corresponding premiums in Germany, France and Japan are much higher at 16.2%, 13.25% and 10-11.82%, respectively, according to the ministry.

To help finance the state insurance programme, the government will make efforts to explore new sources of income.

The government plans to make those who earn an unexpected or one-off income pay an additional premium for their earnings as it did with high-income YouTubers. 

For 2024, the ministry froze the monthly premium rate at 7.09% for the first time in seven years due to the "relatively stable" financial status of the insurance program, high inflation and interest rates. 

It marked the third time for Korea to freeze the premium, including the decisions made for 2017 and 2009.  By law, Koreans are required to join the insurance scheme, and foreigners living here can also subscribe to it, reported Yonhap.