S. Korean government covers costs for testing for and treating coronavirus infections

Posted on : 2020-02-13 16:08 KST Modified on : 2020-02-13 16:08 KST
Costs for foreign patients also covered for humanitarian reasons
A novel coronavirus testing center in Seoul’s Eunpyeong District. (Park Jong-shik, staff photographer)
A novel coronavirus testing center in Seoul’s Eunpyeong District. (Park Jong-shik, staff photographer)

After a recent trip to China, Kim A-yeong (pseudonym) came down with what seemed like a nasty cold. Wondering whether she might have contracted the coronavirus (which causes the disease now known as “COVID-19”), she visited a public health center designated for testing and she provided some phlegm as a sample. After testing positive for the virus. Kim was hospitalized at one of the government’s quarantine facilities and then released two weeks later.

How much does Kim have to pay for her testing and treatment? The answer is “nothing” Under the Infectious Disease Prevention Act, the South Korean government is covering all costs related to testing, quarantine, and treatment for COVID-19. More specifically, the cost is shared by the National Health Insurance Service (NHIC), the state, and local governments.

The initial cost of collecting a sample and testing it for the coronavirus is about 160,000 won (US$135.28). An individual identified as a “suspected patient” under the standards announced by Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) is completely covered by the national health insurance and doesn’t incur any out-of-pocket expenses.

A suspected patient is defined as someone who exhibits respiratory symptoms, such as fever and coughing, within 14 days of visiting China or coming into close contact with an infected individual showing symptoms of the disease. Someone who experiences those symptoms within 14 days of visiting a country other than China where coronavirus transmission is believed to be occurring at the local level can also be categorized as a suspected patient at the discretion of a doctor. However, government support only applies to the cost of collecting the sample, and the patient is still responsible for fees associated with a standard examination and other procedures, such as X-ray testing.

After an individual is definitely diagnosed as being infected, the government covers all costs resulting from treatment, testing, and examination from the time of their admission at the hospital until the time of their release from quarantine. The cost of medical care is divided as follows: the NHIS pays hospitals what it would normally pay under insurance rules, while hospitals will be reimbursed for the patient’s treatment copay and other costs incurred during hospitalization, including meals, by the KCDC, local governments, and public health centers. For humanitarian reasons, the government has also decided to cover the testing and treatment costs for foreigners even if they aren’t enrolled in the national health insurance scheme.

The government will also be covering part of the costs incurred by individuals who haven’t tested positive but have to undergo a 14-day quarantine at home after coming into contact with an infected individual. Individuals who have been ordered to go on self-quarantine will be paid 1.23 million won (US$1,040; assuming a family of four), while companies that provide paid leave to individuals on self-quarantine will be compensated up to 130,000 won (US$109.94) per day.

By Park Da-hae, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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