Health spending as percent of GDP in South Korea 2000-2021
Higher health spending is still insufficient
Even though health spending as a share of the GDP began exceeding eight percent annually starting in 2019, it has stayed below the OECD average of 8.8 percent. However, if spending continues to develop as it has so far, South Korea will reach and potentially succeed the OECD average within the decade. Likewise, the government’s health expenses were around 60 percent and slightly increased from the previous year, but still lower than the OECD average of almost 74 percent. The increased expenditure was largely attributed to the introduction of what is dubbed “Moon Jae-In Care”, named after the current Korean president, much like the American Affordable Care Act is colloquially known as “Obamacare”. In short, the government will provide greatly expanded coverage for medical treatments and care, increasing the reimbursement rate of the public health insurance, along with other measures. In addition, the Korean population as a whole is rapidly aging, and more people than before are being hospitalized and receiving examinations. Koreans already see doctors far more frequently than any other OECD nationals.
Strains on health spending and insurance
The Korean national public health insurance system enjoyed seven years of surplus revenue since 2011 but fell into the red in 2018. As noted above, Moon Jae-In Care and the aging population are largely responsible. The years’ worth of revenue is projected to run out in the coming years. Foreigners who come to Korea as medical tourists make things worse, with an all-time high of over 497 thousand medical tourists visiting Korea in 2019, though this has dropped off since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began.