[Reporter’s Notebook] Competitive candidates’ politicize ‘foreign residents’ health insurance issues

The two leading presidential candidates and their camps exchanged verbal battles during the lunar New Year holiday over foreign residents ’health insurance coverage.

On Sunday, Yoon Suk-yeol, the flag bearer of the conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP), said he would strengthen the registration requirement for foreign health insurance subscribers and their relatives.

“I want to address the blind spot in health insurance for foreigners living in Korea,” Yoon wrote on Facebook.

According to Yoon, unlike Koreans, foreign relatives take advantage of the fact that they can receive benefits regardless of the period of residence. This resulted in situations where some foreigners signed up for Korea’s health insurance and registered relatives as addicts have been on “eat-and-dash” after receiving expensive treatments.

“By the end of 2021, some of the top 10 foreign workers had registered seven to 10 dependents on their health insurance,” Yoon said. “In the case of a subscriber, the subscriber has registered an entire family ranging from two sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.”

Eight out of 10 foreign nationals who received the most health insurance benefits are Chinese, and among them are six relatives, Yoon added.

In particular, Yoon explained that a Chinese citizen who enjoyed the most benefits received about 3.3 billion won ($ 2.7 million) in health insurance benefits as a relative, while paying only about 10 percent of the benefits.

“We will carefully examine how we can address the sense of injustice and disappointment that Koreans feel,” Yoon said.

Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative opposition People Power Party (right) has promised to strengthen the registration requirements for foreign health insurance addicts, triggering yet another verbal battle with arch-rival Lee Jae-myung of the Korean Democratic Party over xenophobic election campaign.
Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative opposition People Power Party (right) has promised to strengthen the registration requirements for foreign health insurance addicts, triggering yet another verbal battle with arch-rival Lee Jae-myung of the Korean Democratic Party over xenophobic election campaign.

However, Yoon’s rival from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) criticized his comments, which promoted xenophobic policies.

“Candidate Yoon said that foreigners benefit from health insurance. However, health insurance for foreigners has a profit of more than 500 billion won a year and the Koreans benefit from them,” said Lee Jae-myung. “Extreme right-wing populism, which wins votes by promoting xenophobia, is detrimental to the country and its people.”

According to data submitted by the National Health Insurance Service to the rep. Koh Young-in from the ruling DPK, the financial balance sheet for foreign health insurances has generated a profit of about 1.55 trillion won in four years since 2017.

In particular, when Korea implemented the mandatory health insurance system for foreigners and overseas nationals in July 2019, profits in 2019 and 2020 were 365.1 billion and 571.5 billion, a sharp increase of 140 billion and 206.4 billion won, respectively, compared to the previous year. . .

Given the total tax deficit on health insurance in 2020 was 353.1 billion won, if it were not for foreign health insurance, the deficit would have exceeded 900 billion won.

The economic balance of health insurance for foreigners records a profit each year because the government has adjusted insurance premiums for foreigners to the average Korean insurance premiums.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare implemented payment of the higher insurance premium based on the subscriber’s income and the average insurance premium per household in the previous year. It is challenging to determine the assets and income of foreigners accurately.

Such rules have led to a higher average premium for foreign health insurance subscribers than Korean subscribers.

According to data from the National Tax Service, the average wage for foreign workers in 2019 was 27.2 million won, which is only 73 percent of Korean workers.

In response to such criticism, the PPP accused Lee and the DPK of commenting to mislead the public.

The PPP election headquarters stated that it is nonsense and black propaganda to cut the demand to improve the current medical system for right-wing populism.

“It is reasonable to provide health care to foreigners who have lived there for about six months, but should it not be appropriate to restrict the eating-and-dash act by registering relatives as relatives to receive treatment?” said Lee Yang-soo, a senior spokesman for the PPP election committee. “The message about foreign health insurance, as candidate Yoon pointed out, is about the exaggerated dependent benefits for some foreign health insurance subscribers.”

Yoon’s remark about preventing foreigners from using the identities of others to receive treatment is also a problem Korea has faced in the past few years.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the ministry has confirmed 178,237 cases of illegal use of health insurance by foreigners from 2015 to 2017, with medical expenses of 4 billion won.

In conclusion, the Conservative candidate made the mistake of exaggerating some foreign subscribers’ abuse of the health insurance system, as if it is the trend among all foreign residents, according to neutral observers.

In contrast, the relatively progressive camp also tried to paint the opposition camp’s criticism as xenophobic, while ignoring apparent loopholes in the country’s health insurance system for foreigners, they said.

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