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Number of foreign subscribers to state health insurance soars in 2019

All News 09:10 February 12, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) – The number of foreign subscribers to South Korea's state health insurance program surged in 2019 to top the 1 million mark after the country required long-stay foreigners to sign up for it, data showed Wednesday.

According to the data from the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), there were slightly over 1.21 million foreign subscribers to the mandatory health insurance plan last year, up some 266,000 from the previous year. Last year marked the first time that the figure has surpassed 1 million.

The number had been on a steady rise after reaching about 784,000 in 2015.

Last year's surge was attributed to Seoul's requirement for long-stay foreign residents to subscribe to the health insurance program that was introduced in 1989.

Number of foreign subscribers to state health insurance soars in 2019 - 1

Starting in July last year, all foreigners who stay in South Korea for six months or longer were required to sign up for the health insurance plan to prevent them from receiving medical treatment and leaving without paying insurance fees.

Under the new rules, all foreigners, including ethnic Koreans from abroad residing in the country, must pay over 110,000 won (US$93) per month for coverage.

Previously, foreigners who work here were required to pay for health insurance, while non-working foreign residents here were allowed to optionally subscribe to the scheme.

Foreign residents face penalties unless they comply with the new requirement and pay monthly premiums on time.

According to the latest government data, the number of foreigners staying in South Korea came to 2.37 million in 2018, up 8.6 percent from the prior year.

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