"Do you know what happened on April 6th this year in the state council?" I asked this question to several students. "Well, I have no interest in such political matters," one of my friends answered. Surprisingly, she was not the only person who is ignorant about the matter.
On April 6th, the state council meeting gave the go-ahead for the health service amendment. Unfortunately, most of the students whom I asked were totally unaware of it. In fact, the government and the press have never provided people with any announcement on the amendment. This is mostly a result of the accident of the Cheonan war ship which swept the Korean media for about a month. In this situation it is very important for college students to have interest regarding the health service amendment as this will directly affect them as they become members of society.
On April 30th there was a press conference for college students on the topic of health care. The students participated in the conference and were fiercely opposed to the reform of health service laws. This shows that the reform is a controversial problem between the government and the people. Experts think this problem will not be resolved easily.
The government is now implementing a law which has made it mandatory for every medical institution(including hospitals and pharmacies) in Korea to execute the diagnosis of national health insurance and its application. Every person who compulsorily joined national health insurance can get benefits from medical insurance services. However, the government is trying to reform this law.
Among various kinds of items in the new health care reform, there are three main categories which have brought the government into conflict with the people. The first point is that the government is trying to allow patient-doctor telemedicine where medical information is transferred through interactive audio-visual media for the purpose of remote medical procedures and examinations. Government officials insist that if telemedicine becomes effective, giving a prescription to a patient’s deputy or sending it to a pharmacy near a patient's residence becomes possible. The government believes that telemedicine will raise the access of medical service and foster the medical service industry.
“There is no such problem in Korea towards the access of medical care service due to wide distribution of hospitals all around the country that are within easy reach of patient’s homes,” said Shim Hui-jun. One of the opponents, a representative of a meeting of Chinese medicine college students "Gilbut", who attended the press conference of college students of the health care conference in April. Shim stated: “Instead, there are more possibilities to worsen the proximity of medical care. For example, if large hospitals located in Seoul or other metropolises begin to use remote diagnosis to treat local residents it could adversely shut hospitals down because of financial difficulties.”
The second controversial issue that has originated is whether the government should establish the Management Service Organization (MSO) or not. The core of the article is approving the establishment of MSO in the form of a stock company as an extra business to make a medical agency run business such as purchases, financial affairs, education of employees, dispatch of employees and equipment lease. Also, the government is trying to grant the power of supplying the capital and legalizing the investment to the MSO for the hospitals as a main company.
According to a report from the National Assembly published last year, the government recorded, “Because it is prohibited to change present hospitals to hospitals for profit, promoting MSO will accomplish the establishment of hospitals for profit.” Yet, there is a strong rebuttal. One of the problems regarding the MSO is the fact that it will definitely employ the rest of the employees except for doctors and nurses from the MSO’s dispatched employees.
Most of the earnings which non-profit hospitals gained could be transferred to the MSO as rent, medical instrument fees, personnel expenses, consulting costs, and marketing expenses. Originally, non-profit hospitals could not spend its earnings on side business, however, in the form of costs for the MSO, it could possibly carry over the profits. “We [future doctors] are against this policy because we are likely to become a vending machine of medical care as the power and size of the MSO becomes larger without our beliefs. We would just be following what the MSO wants us to do,” said representative Shim.
The last point is the allowance of merging medical corporations. This will become a reality when the MSO is established. Government officials insist that the goal is to open a way of lining hospitals up because hospitals which own enough capital to merge with other hospitals can further develop the medical care and service industry. On the other hand, allowing the merging stands for the allowance of monopoly of medical care from large hospitals such as Samsung hospital, which can also result in the degeneration of small hospitals.
The government claims that the reform of health service laws is not related to medical care privatization. However, the opponents argue that if the proposals pass the National Assembly Korea will be a medical care-privatized country like America. These conflicts might not easily be resolved until people give any serious concerns to them. The concerns of college students are especially vital in the present situation. As a future member of society college students should have interests about this issue. Therefore, the well being of ourselves as well as future generations rests in our hands. We must protect national health service in Korea.
Park Sung-yoon sdf
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