An analysis of the health financing system of the Republic of Korea and options to strengthen health financing performance
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is a high-income country with a GDP of US$ 20,014 per capita in 2007 (at exchange rate). Korea has achieved great gains in health during the past 30 years. These may be attributed to both steady economic growth and health system development. In fact, the health financing system of the Republic of Korea has undergone many important developments and reforms that have contributed to increasing health financing performance and ultimately to improving people's health.
The Korean NHI system is often cited as a success story due to its rapid expansion of population coverage since 1977, when the Medical Insurance Act was amended. Universal access in terms of covering the entire population was achieved within 12 years in 1989. This quick transition to universal coverage meant that inequities between those insured and those not insured lasted for a much shorter time than would otherwise have been the case.
Despite this success, some challenges remain and new ones are emerging. This is a characteristic of all health financing systems, where there is constant need for evaluation, assessment, and modifications as necessary to continue to improve access to services, financial risk protection and health status.
This report aims to provide a detailed review of the Korean health financing system through an institutional analysis of the health financing functions and the health financing schemes in operation. We seek to identify possible strengths and weaknesses of the health financing system and the factors that influence them, in order to make suggestions about ways to continue the development of the health financing system.