Expats accused of heathcare fraud in South Korea

Published:  10 Sep at 6 PM
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Expats in Korea are facing a crackdown on dodgy practices gaining access to the country’s healthcare for free.

Foriegners needing expensive treatments have been signing up for private healthcare insurance, paying a few monthly premiums and jetting off to Korea for medical or surgical treatment. After getting operations, cancer treatment and suchlike and claiming on their new policies, they’re leaving for their home countries without paying their bills, and cancelling their insurance as soon as they get back.

Another scam has resulted from Korean hospitals’ lack of care in checking out patients’ national health cards, with one Korean-American borrowing a health card from a Korean friend, undergoing a year's treatment for cataracts and returning to the USA after costing the hospital several millions of won. The Korean press are now calling these scams ‘ healthcare dine and dash’, and the government is cracking down on foreign medical tourists arriving for expensive treatments.

The country’s National Health Insurance Service estimates some 25,000 foreigners exploited the system between 2015 and the end of 2017, with costs mounting to around a trillion won. In an attempt to stop the abuse on the heathcare system, foreigners will now need to have been in the country for at least six months before they can use the service and must be seen to have taken out insurance and paid monthly premiums.

For those lending or borrowing Korean health cards from friends or colleagues, sentences on conviction have been set at three years in jail or a fine of not exceeding a million won. Exceptions will be allowed for foreigners arriving to study at recognised universities or to get married to a Korean national, free treatment for tuberculosis will still be available to all and genuine refugees will not be charged for their health care.
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