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Korea’s Healthcare Privatization and Korea Health & Medical Worker's Union's (KHMU) Fight Against It
 
<1> Major Problems in Korea's Healthcare System
 
l  As of 2010, 81,681 healthcare institutions existed, a 32.2% increase since 2000. Over the past decade, competitions for patients intensified with the increased capacity and the expensive medical instruments used in large hospitals.
l  Public hospitals account for 5.6% of total healthcare institutions and for 10.4% of total sick-beds. i.e., approximately 90% of the sick-beds are in private hospitals (the OECD average of public sick-beds is 75%).
l   All Koreans have national health insurance; however, it only covers 62% of total medical costs. The remaining 38% and other non-covered medical expenses, including optional treatment cost and nursing service fee must be paid by the patient.
l  Besides national health insurance, 78% of all households are signed up for 3.6 private insurance plans at average
l  The hospital workforce falls short of the number needed. The number of nurses is only one third of the OECD average.
l  Due to working shifts and workforce shortages, only 100,000 nurses work at medical institutions (Korea has 270,000 licensed nurses).  
l  The number of CTs, MRIs, PETs and other high-priced medical equipment ranks lower than the OECD average.

Profit-making is prohibited even in private hospitals. For-profit hospitals were illegal, but now they are allowed within the limits of the Free Economic Zone.

 

<2> Healthcare Privatization Policy: Content and Problems

 

l  Park Geun-hye's conservative administration announced the Service Industry Investment Promotion Plan on December 2013.

l  The plan aims to relieve the government’s responsibility and propel healthcare privatization by repealing various regulations, which restrict profit-making businesses and commercial services, with the purpose of creating a new single industry of healthcare sectors.

l  The policy does not promote public well-being but creates more wealth for the conglomerates and chaebols (family-run, mostly nepotistic, large enterprise groups).

 

<3> KHMU’s Campaign Directions and Plans

 

l  KHMU views recent governmental policies as steps to privatize and commercialize healthcare sectors. 

l  The policies make health and life profit-making tools; polarize healthcare services; and increase medical bills.

l  Healthcare privatization, in particular, has been opposed by over 70% of Koreans.

l  Taken together, KHMU condemns and protests the privatization of healthcare sectors, reflecting the Korean people’s will.

l  On February 25, President Yu Ji-hyun of KHMU and 16 leaders shaved their heads and committed to an all-out struggle.

l  Over the past month (throughout April), KHMU held one-day education sessions about healthcare privatization and its impacts for unionists.

l  In solidarity with the Korean Nurses Association (KNA), the Korean Dental Association (KDA), and the Association of Korean Medicine (AKM), KHMU organized and ran anti-privatization campaigns.

l  The Pan-Nation Campaign Center against Healthcare Privatization was co-organized by KHMU and approximately ninety civic organizations. This center has been running a One Million Signature Campaign against healthcare privatization.

l  A civil committee against healthcare privatization were formed in regions and cities. The committees have led discussion sessions, press conferences, street protests, signature campaigns, and other activities.

l  KHMU has conducted research and surveys of healthcare privatization at home and abroad; contributed commentaries to media to shape public opinions against privatization.

l  KHMU plans to propose a draft for an amended act against healthcare privatization, along with national assembly members of opposition parties.

l  KHMU plans to support candidates who oppose healthcare privatization during the June 4 municipality and city council election campaigns.  

l  KHMU plans a general strike in June to prevent pro-privatization legislations from being passed.

 

<4> Major Issues

1.Authorizing Telemedicine

Major Issues

Ø  Telemedicine: treatment and diagnosis of a patient by a medical professional via telecommunication technology (e.g., video chat)

Ø  The administration has submitted the revised bill which extends the scope of telemedicine. Currently telemedicine may only legally occur between healthcare professionals, but the new bill includes doctor-patient treatments.  

Ø  The administration explained the move as a means of providing better medical services to military personnel, prison inmates, the disabled elderly, the disabled, and people living in remote regions.  

Reasons behind Opposition

Ø  Some misdiagnosis may happen since accurate diagnosis is difficult (most doctors oppose it on these grounds).

Ø  Telemedicine is unnecessary for such a small country as Korea.  .

Ø  The policy only benefits the telecommunications industry, medical equipment companies, and certain chaebols that view healthcare as a profit-making business.

Ø  Patients prefer large and modernized urban hospitals. If telemedicine is introduced, most small-medium sized hospitals in small cities outside the capital area will die off. 

Ø  Telemedicine will lead to a reduction in and restructuring of the healthcare workforce.

    The KHMU opposes telemedicine and demands the introduction of the family physician and expansion of public hospitals.

2.Authorizing the Establishment of Subsidiary Companies by Medical Corporations

Major Issues

Ø  In Korea, profit-making services and establishment of for-profit hospitals are banned on principle (exception: Free Economic Zone).

Ø  Commercial law would sanction the establishment of subsidiary companies by medical corporations. 

Ø  Subsidiary companies under medical corporations will be able to issue bonds and stocks, thereby attracting foreign capital, and pay dividends.

Reasons behind Opposition

Ø  For-profit subsidiary companies aim to profit off of patients who use the services of medical corporations.

Ø  This effectively authorizes the establishment of for-profit hospitals. 

Ø  If profit-making services intensify, with public hospitals accounting for only 10% of the total, healthcare costs will increase and the system will collapse. 

Ø  The policy treats the hospital as a means of profit-making over patient care and treatment.

Ø  The KHMU opposes the legal establishment of for-profit subsidiary companies.

3. Expanding the Range of for-profit Side Businesses

Major Issues

Ø  The Medical Law stipulates that medical and healthcare organizations, including hospitals, are prohibited from pursuing profit-making businesses;

Ø  for-profit businesses in medicine are restricted to eight services and their facilities: education, and research; certain types  of the elderly care services and  facilities; postnatal care centers; funeral halls; parking lots on the premises; restaurants; banks; and eyewear shops.

Ø  The government announced its revised bill to expand the range of for-profit side businesses to a greater extent;

Ø  i.e., the policy permits the purchase and rent of medical equipment; the rent of medical institutions and facilities, sales of cosmetics and health supplements, spa/hot springs, sports facilities, etc.

Reasons behind Opposition

Ø  Medical and healthcare organizations are expected to greatly expand their for-profit services, violating the rationale behind the Medical Law.

Ø  If the range of for-profit businesses allowed is widened, medical organizations will offer more for-profit services to patients and medical bills will increase overall.

Ø  KHMU protests for-profit businesses by medical organizations: for-profit services should be prohibited, and side businesses should be confined to the eight areas sanctioned under current law.

Ø  KHMU plans to propose a draft of amended medical act to the National Assembly, which forbids for-profit side businesses.

4. Authorizing Corporate Pharmacies

Major Issues

Ø  The current medical law only permits licensed pharmacists to run pharmacies; the revised bill authorizes corporate pharmacies

Reasons behind Opposition

Ø  Once a corporate body has been established, large corporate pharmacies and franchisees will likely replace small-medium and local community pharmacies. Therefore, mega-pharmacies will increase medication prices and overall medical charges.

5. Authorizing Mergers and Acquisitions among Medical Organizations

Major Issues

Ø  The current law prohibits M&A among corporate bodies of medical organizations; the revised bill authorizes it. 

Reasons behind Opposition

Ø  With M&As, chaebol hospitals will appear, with nationwide hospitals as subsidiaries.

Ø  The working environment will deteriorate under the constant threat of restructuring.

Ø  Local community hospitals will close; the primary healthcare system will collapse; and medical charges will surge.

6. Permitting Advertisements to Attract Foreign Patients

Major Issues

Ø  Marketing/advertisements for medical services have been regulated in Korea to avoid possible adverse effects; the revised law broadens the foreign language advertisements to attract more foreign patients. 

Reasons behind Opposition

Ø  Any marketing materials, including foreign language ads, will affect decisions that local patients make.

Ø  Excessive advertisements will increase the cost that patients bear because of hospitals’ increased marketing expenses and unnecessary surgical operations that hospitals will recommend to offset the costs of ads.

 

-END-


 

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List of Articles
번호 제목 글쓴이 날짜 조회 수
44 SPECIAL RESOLUTION of 2006 PSI APREC khmu 2008.05.20 8553
43 2006 Provisional Collective Bargaining Agreement file khmu 2008.05.20 14237
42 [KHMU News Release.July 7, 2007] Industry Wide Collective Bargaining at Health and Medical Sector Dramatically Settled file KANGyb 2008.08.05 10451
41 2007 Central Collective Bargaining Agreement file KANGyb 2008.08.05 24774
40 [KHMU News Release.August 10, 2007] Under what conditions are hospital workers working in Korea, 2007? file KANGyb 2008.08.05 20234
39 [KHMU News Release.July 16, 2008] The year 2008, What are the working conditions of health and medical workers in Korea? file KANGyb 2008.08.18 16423
38 [KHMU News Release. July 25, 2008] KHMU to Stage a Protest against Privatization of the Medical Sector file KANGyb 2008.08.18 13650
37 [KHMU News Release. July 29, 2008]Medical Industrial Negotiation Finally Came to a Rupture! Now The Union Goes On Strike file KANGyb 2008.08.18 25914
36 [Report]The History and Present Situation of Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union and 2007 Collective Bargaining Agreement file KANGyb 2008.08.23 12705
35 [KHMU]2008 Central Collective Bargaining Agreement file KANGyb 2008.12.05 17605
34 2008 country report by PSI-KC file KANGyb 2009.04.11 35985
33 "Lay-offs are Murder!" 총무실1 2009.07.28 12580
32 Release Choi Sang-Je, president of Korean media workers’ union 총무실1 2009.07.29 10389
31 Report on Recent ROK Government Repression of Public Sector Workers and file 총무실1 2009.12.18 71933
30 The KCTU will be at the forefront 총무실1 2010.08.11 36956
29 Noam Chomsky contributes to “yellow envelope” campaign 교선실장 2014.03.18 4895
28 Lee Hyo-ri spurs campaign to raise funds for workers burdened by lawsuits 교선실장 2014.03.18 3701
» Korea’s Healthcare Privatization and Korea Health & Medical Worker's Union's (KHMU) Fight Against It file 교육선전실장 2014.06.01 4024
26 100 days later, Sewol families still pleading for the truth 교육선전실장 2014.07.30 9315
25 We Want The Truth of The Sewol Ferry Tragedy file 교육선전실장 2014.10.01 1261
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