About 20% of medical costs in South Korea are being incurred from unnecessary hospitalisation, medical treatment, surgery and visits to the emergency room, an OECD health expert has said.
Ms Francesca Colombo, head of the OECD Health Division, said at a recent symposium in Seoul that South Korea needed to ensure sustainable health insurance by cutting down on unnecessary medical costs, reported Yonhap News Service. The government-run national health insurance system turns 40 this year.
Acclaimed as one of the world's most effective in terms of universal coverage, the national health insurance system faces challenges from a rapidly ageing society.
The national health system is funded by a 6.12% premium rate this year, lower than the 15.5% for Germany, 13.6% for France and 10% for Japan in 2014. Coverage of hospital bills by the Korean system stands at about 60%, compared with the OECD's 73.1%.
The coverage gap in Korea has boosted the development of the commercial health insurance market. About 88% of Korean households have commercial health insurance, with the average household paying KRW310,000 (US$269) in monthly premiums, according to statistics by the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS).
About 19.3% of the country's total households spent more than 10% of their annual incomes on medical expenses in 2013, according to the NHIS data.