Learn About the Healthcare System & Insurance Options of South Korea

south korea healthcare systemOf all the ultra-modern facilities that the country may boast off, its healthcare system is the most robust. With the 11th highest life expectancy in the world, South Korea has a compulsory National Health Insurance (NHI) healthcare system. Public and private hospitals in Seoul have high standards of medical care. Most of the hospitals have adequate medical staff who can communicate in English. All medical treatments require upfront medical payments. It is, therefore, compulsory for global citizens and expats to obtain an international health insurance plan before arriving in this country.

Overview of Healthcare System

The economic development of the country, along with the universal health coverage through the (NHI), has led to speedy improvement in the state’s healthcare. South Korea ranks well on health parameters as compared to other Asian nations.

South Korea has numerous hospitals that offer adequate levels of care, advanced medical infrastructure, and facilities. In the country, medical professionals go through rigorous training, from surgeons to healthcare assistants. Treatments and services available throughout the country are at par with international standards.

But just as any other country, expats, global citizens, and digital nomads should get their vaccinations before arriving in South Korea. Here’s a list from CDC on vaccinations.

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How the South Korean Healthcare System Works for Expats?

Travelers and expats have unrestricted access to medical treatment and healthcare facilities in South Korea. The NHI governs the healthcare system in South Korea. Expats need to join the NHI scheme shortly after their arrival in the country. NHI-registered expats can avail medical care at discounted rates by producing their Alien Registration Card (ARC). Expats will require to pay an upfront fee. They can reimburse the cost of treatment from their employer. The stress-free way would be to get an international health insurance plan that covers medical emergencies.

When expats have a private health insurance policy to supplement their contribution towards the NHI, they can easily afford insurance plans for availing private healthcare. Additionally, such healthcare insurance policies offer an array of benefits, including medical repatriation, when needed.

Public Healthcare in South Korea

The NHI in South Korea is a compulsory insurance system that provides coverage to all its citizens. While the citizens pay a hefty amount for consultation with the doctors and specialists, expats only have to pay a portion of the cost. It includes purchasing traditional medicine (including acupuncture) as well as prescription medication at a nominal price. Routine visits to doctors and dentists remain rare. However, doctors may, at times, overprescribe to draw more benefits from pharmaceutical companies.

Private Healthcare in South Korea

Buying International Health InsuranceThe National Health Insurance system mostly covers routine health check-ups along with medical emergencies, but it does not cover treatments for chronic illnesses such as cancer. Treatments for chronic diseases are expensive and therefore require the aid of private insurance companies. Residents and expats of South Korea, who can afford private healthcare insurance plans, opt for health policies to avoid having to bear costs of expensive treatments that are not a part of the NHI.

Emergency Medical Services in South Korea

During a situation of a medical emergency, expats can get in touch with the Immigration Contact Center. In case an expat is at a doctor’s clinic where no one speaks in English, translation services are a part of medical help. The Immigration Center also puts you in direct contact with the emergency services. The staff members of the Center are bilingual, and there will always be someone who can speak English.

Get in touch with the Immigration Contact Center at 1345 and call 119 for Ambulance Services.

Medicines and Pharmacies

There is a sufficient number of pharmacies spread all over Seoul, where both traditional medicines and prescribed medicines are available in abundance. Since hospitals in South Korea are not permitted to dispense prescribed drugs, most pharmacies are located near the hospitals. Finding 24/7 pharmacies are rare, but they usually remain open till late in the night. Expats, who are a part of the NHI program, can buy prescription medication at heavily subsidized rates.

Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in South Korea 

Travelers who are about to visit the country or expats who are contemplating coming here are strongly advised to buy an international health insurance policy. But before opting for the plan, one must ensure that it provides for overseas medical evacuation in the event of a severe medical emergency. Get in touch with Expat Financial for global health insurance plans.

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