The Korean government said yesterday that it will strengthen regulations in the country's health insurance programme to prevent foreigners from abusing the system.
The minimum stay requirement to receive benefits from the national health insurance programme will be extended from the current three months to six months, and it will be mandatory for all those who stay in the country for more than six months to sign up for the programme, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The latest move comes amid an increasing number of foreigners as well as overseas Koreans visiting South Korea temporarily and leaving after receiving medical treatment without paying insurance fees.
According to the ministry, foreigners who fail to pay premiums will face tougher punishment when they renew their visas or seek to re-enter the country.
The ministry did not give any specific timeframe for when the strengthened regulations will take effect, reports Yonhap News Agency. It is expected that the new rules will take effect in the second half of the year.
Currently, foreigners who stay in the country for more than three months can voluntarily join the national health insurance programme.
As of last year, 913,000 foreigners, including South Koreans living abroad, had signed up for the state health insurance programme.
Last year's National Assembly audit of the health ministry found that the deficit of the state-run health programme for foreign subscribers stood at KRW662.4 billion ($620 million) from 2012 to 2017.