Medical Insurance in Korea
Information about the Korean Medical Insurance Scheme for foreign employees teaching English in Korea.
Government employees, military personnel, private school employees and their family members are covered by Korean national health insurance. Foreigners who work at the work places mentioned above can be covered as employees insured by the national health insurance program through individual application.
The National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) is the only public insurer managing the National Health Insurance under the supervision of the Korean Ministry of Health & Welfare. The insured of NHI can be categorized into employee insured and the self-employed insured. The NHI is a system where contributions made by the insured are consolidated into a fund and insurance benefits are provided upon their need. The system aims to share the burden among the insured persons and provide medical services.
The contribution of insured employees including the government and private school employees is based on the income of the insured; the scope and items of income and the contribution rates are the same.
Those who have correctly completed their alien registration as a foreign worker at Korean Immigration Bureau can make an application for the enrolment of national health insurance at the NHIC.
The foreign workers should make an application for enrolment to their employer who is then responsible for remitting the application to the office with the required documents. The enrolment is retroactive to the date of employment.
According to the Health Insurance Act, the Insurance Finance Committee established that the National Health Insurance Corporation was allowed to set the contribution rate for the employed insured at less than 8% of monthly wages and salaries. The contribution rate of the employed insured is 3.94% for ordinary employees and for government and private school employees. The contribution of the employed insured is borne by both employee and employer.
For ordinary employees, the employer pays 50% of the contribution and the employee pays the other 50%.
For private school employees, the owner of the private school pays only 30% of the contribution; the government subsidizes 20% of the contribution and the employee pays the other 50%.
The payment of contributions is the responsibility of employers and all members of households by the 10th day of the following month on a monthly basis. In the case of non-payment, the insurer (NHIC) has the authority to carry out coercive collection. The contribution amount shall be calculated by the monthly salary contribution rate and be deducted from the monthly salary (50% of which are paid by the employer). The duty of the payment is retroactive to the date of employment.
The benefit package for foreigner is the same as for Korean nationals. When the insured person and qualifying dependents, no matter whether they are foreigners or Korean nationals, get health care service at the health care facilities, they have to pay as follows;
Treatments of diseases that do not hinder work or daily living, and the cost of drugs and medical materials for simple fatigue, hair loss, freckles, warts, hirsutism, acne, impotence, hereditary deformity of genitals, simple snoring, plastic surgery, cure of sequela, and operation to correct eyesight are not covered by the health insurance.
- For treatment at the hospitals and medical clinics: 20%-50% of the total charges applicable by NHI
- For prescription drugs filled at the pharmacy: 30% of the total charges applicable by NHI
More information about NHIC benefits can be found at http://www.nhic.or.kr/wbe/wbeb/2002/11/19/207,257,6,0,0.html.
In order to ensure the early detection and treatment of chronic degenerative diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, liver diseases and pulmonary tuberculosis, NHIC is providing a health check-up service for the insured and their dependents once every two years. Foreigners in the Korean medical scheme for more than 2 years can receive an examination free of charge.
You are NOT entitled to receive care at any private clinic or hospital. You must always only report to local government operated clinics or hospitals if you wish to use your Korean medical card for subsidized treatment.
First stage and second stage treatments.
Beneficiaries are required to receive first-stage health care treatments and then second-stage health care treatments (performed at tertiary care hospitals) in due sequence except in cases such as: emergency situations, giving birth to a child; receiving dental treatments. First-stage health care treatments refer to the cases when beneficiaries receive health care treatments at institutions other than tertiary care hospitals.
When intending to receive first-stage health care treatments, beneficiaries should submit their health insurance cards.
When intending to receive second-stage health care treatments, beneficiaries should submit their health insurance cards with a referral paper from the doctor who provided first-stage health care treatments or the results of a health check up with the doctor's opinion that the patient is diagnosed as needing further medical treatment.
When health insurance cards are not submitted, beneficiaries can request eligibility confirmation from the NHIC. The NHIC, after receiving this request, sends confirmation to health care institutions, which enables beneficiaries to receive the necessary treatment. When beneficiaries do not submit health insurance cards or their eligibilities are not confirmed by the NHIC, they can receive insurance coverage through confirmation by phone or on the Internet.
You must be a correctly registered resident in Korea and hold an Alien Card to be registered for the scheme. The insurance is a medical scheme only and not applicable to any other issue or situation that may happen whilst in Korea during your travels. You should always take advice before departure from your home country about other travel costs and applicable insurances. NOTE: some insurance may not cover you if you are a registered resident with a working visa in another country.
When you gain employment in Korea, you will be faced with the option of accepting the Korean medical scheme coverage that by law must be offered to you by your employer, or taking your own comprehensive cover from your country of origin.
A Comparison of International and Korean Medical Insurance
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There are a number of private insurance providers in Korea and your employer may be able to select between membership in one of these schemes or in the Korean scheme. Being a member of a Korean medical scheme will allows you to visit the majority of Korean doctors, clinics and hospitals within your residential area and gain access to medical help.
If you have decided to join the Korean scheme you will have your 50% deduction taken from your pay each month and the employer will be required to pay his 50% as well.
If you are going to be taking the Korean health insurance option, you will not have any coverage until your school has correctly registered you at immigration for an alien residency card.
This procedure should be done as soon as possible after you enter the country with an E2 visa stamp in your passport. Your employer is also required to complete final paperwork and register you at the local education board.
If you have entered without your E2 visa stamped into your passport, you will have to wait until you have received the final visa stamp in your passport (most likely after a trip to Japan).
This 'Alien registration card' process must legally be completed within 90 days of your entry into Korea. The cost for completing this registration is minimal (approximately $15US). Until you have the card returned to you, it could be extremely difficult to attend a Korean clinic for medical help, as you would not have the required documentation of your residency status. Your employer is also required to register you in the Korean medical scheme, and in turn you should receive a small card (booklet) showing your membership and financial status.
In our experience over 70% of individual schools do not correctly register their teachers into any medical scheme and instead may just deduct an employee contribution and hope that you will not know how the medical payments work! If you have a medical emergency, often the school just elects to pay your doctors bills, or you find you do not have correct coverage.
If you have been registered correctly and have your Alien Registration card, and medical registration card, the Korean scheme is an excellent, basic coverage to access cheaper medical care. However, be aware that it is basic medical coverage only, and you are not covered in any way for any other problems that can occur while in Korea, and you will have no insurance coverage as soon as you leave Korea and travel to another country.
This is important, as most teachers in Korea will travel to countries close by, such as Japan, China and Vietnam at some time during their contract time in Korea.
If you elect to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance cover policy from your home country, you must purchase a policy that covers you in a working situation. From our considerable research into policies that are available we have found only two companies in New Zealand that offer coverage for New Zealand citizens while they are working, however there may be more available. It is vital that you check carefully with an insurance agent in your county of residency to get advice regarding policies, costs, cover etc. that may be available. You will also need to find out about extensions to any term over the 12 months, what the cost is, and if it is payable at the beginning.
Most people in Korea are working for 12-month contracts and then travelling for 1-3 months into other countries, before they either return to their own countries, or commence work again in Korea.
Once you have purchased a comprehensive general travel policy, you will be covered at all times, for everything, in any country selection you chose. If you are intending to travel into Japan, it is a country with extremely high medical costs and therefore higher insurance charges. For a minimal extra cost you can usually get added cover to Japan for periods of up to seven days, rather than pay in higher bracket to have cover in Japan as well (especially if you intend to do a visa run there).
The general cost of a discounted 12-month comprehensive policy works out only slightly more expensive than the Korean medical scheme that would be deducted from your pay when you are working.
A few schools will fully insist on joining you into the Korean scheme, even if you have taken your own insurance. You may find that schools such as ECC do this for you for and other schools may get you to sign a statement to prove you have your own cover, or ask for proof of your policy to check the cover it offers.
Overall it is a matter of personal choice how you arrange your insurance coverage while working in Korea. World English Service Ltd strongly advise that you think carefully about any medical insurance decision as soon as you know you will be accepting a job in Korea.
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