Health Insurance In South Korea
Before leaving to study or live in Korea, you should make sure you are familiar with Korean health insurance and fully understand your coverage. You do not want to be caught off-guard if something happens and you are sick or injured during your stay.
South Korea has a National Health Insurance (NHI) system, which is compulsory and required by Korean law. Everyone resident in the country is eligible regardless of nationality or profession. The National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) is the only public insurance institution operated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Korea.
Payment is made by an individual's employer unless they are self-employed, in which case they pay it themselves. Foreigners living in South Korea who are registered with the NHIC receive the same medical benefits and services as Korean nationals. The amount an individual pays in NHIC contributions depends on their income and economic power. People who are registered as disabled and those over the age of 65 pay less.
The cover provided by the insurance is comprehensive; it includes health check-ups, tests and diagnosis, treatments, surgeries, preventive care, hospitalisation, nursing, rehabilitation and transportation.
Types of health insurance in South Korea
- Employee health insurance
This insurance is paid by an individual's employer and is taken from the employee's salary; half of the total contribution is paid by the employer and half by the individual. The contribution is proportional to the wage earned. Any foreigner working in Korea for a company with more than five employees can receive Korean National Health Insurance. Their spouse and children under the age of 20 will also be covered.
- Self-employed health insurance
Those who cannot be covered by employee health insurance are able to apply for self-employed health insurance. It is available to citizens living in the country; foreigners can apply if they have completed alien registration or listed their place of residence as South Korea.
Insurance benefits are the same for all contributors. When receiving health care individuals pay a certain amount towards their care in what are called "co-payments". The amount of a co-payment depends on where the care is given and the type of care.
Typical co-payment amounts are 20 percent of inpatient hospital care, 30-50 percent of outpatient care and 35-40 percent of pharmacy bills. Many Koreans opt to also join a private health insurance scheme to provide more comprehensive cover than is provided by National Health Insurance.
For people employed by a company in South Korea, enrolment is carried out by their employer. All foreigners need an alien registration card to support their application. A foreigner wishing to apply for self employed health insurance needs to fill in an application form and submit it to the NHIC branch listed on their registration card. An alien registration card and immigration record is needed to support the application. Applicants are issued a Health Insurance Card immediately.
Many Korean residents also opt to join a private health insurance scheme in addition to the National Health Insurance, to provide more comprehensive cover than what is provided by the NHI.