Why Korean healthcare is excellent yet so affordable

by Rahul Devi

One of the most important aspects of a society’s well-being is its healthcare system. The quality and accessibility of healthcare services are often considered as crucial indicators of a nation’s progress. Unfortunately, India’s healthcare system faces several challenges. However, there is one country that stands out in terms of medical facilities and that is South Korea.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the efficiency of the Korean healthcare system. Not only did they save thousands of lives, but their swift response to the pandemic also served as a template for the rest of the world. Despite having a population greater than many developed nations, Korea has managed to lose fewer lives to the virus compared to countries equipped with great medical infrastructure.

One of the key factors that contribute to Korea’s success in healthcare is the low tax burden on its citizens. Koreans pay less in taxes for healthcare compared to citizens of other developed countries who often have to pay private insurance on top of their taxes. This means that despite the hefty fee, access to coverage in countries with “free healthcare” is not always possible. On the other hand, through the National Health Insurance Corporation, an agency of the Korean Ministry of Health and Wellness, national health insurance is offered to all citizens of Korea. This insurance is paid for by an average 5.06% payroll deduction from employees’ and employers’ monthly income. Most hospitals in Korea are privately owned, ensuring the quality of medical assistance that Koreans receive is exemplary.

In contrast, India’s healthcare system is plagued by high costs. A research study by the Union Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation found that hospitalization for any illness in India is six times more expensive in a private facility than in a public one. This disparity in costs means that healthcare is often inaccessible to many Indians. A study by TOI also compared the cost of medical care in private and public hospitals in Bengaluru, revealing that hospitalization in private facilities costs 2–20 times more than in public facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the significance of a healthy society for a strong economy. Healthy individuals tend to live longer, earn more, and save more money. According to research, countries should invest at least 6% of their GDP in healthcare. However, in India, only 1.5% of the GDP is allocated to healthcare. This is significantly less in a country with a population of roughly 1.3 billion people. India has a long way to go to provide accessible healthcare to all its citizens, and there are valuable lessons to be learned from Korea’s inexpensive and high-quality healthcare system.

In conclusion, healthcare is an essential component of a society’s well-being, and the healthcare system in India faces numerous challenges. However, South Korea stands out as a country that excels in terms of medical facilities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their low tax burden on healthcare and the provision of national health insurance to all citizens contribute to the exemplary quality of their healthcare system. India has much to learn from Korea in terms of providing accessible and affordable healthcare to its population.

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