Korea’s global example of containment is owed to nation’s enhanced response capability against pandemic, including full coverage of all people by the national health insurance program
A medical staff member with Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital disinspects a visitor for a COVID-19 diagnosis test. (Photo: Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital)
(Photo: NHIS websit)
Korea has been recognized for having managed to trace, test and treat patents of COVID-19 without any lockdown. Korea is the sole country in the world to put the virus outbreak under control without border restrictions.
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft praised Korea for its superb efforts to trace, test and treat COVID-19 cases in a U.S. TV talk show. Gates touted Korea for making the outcome of COVID-18 tests available within 24 hours.
Korea’s global example of containment is owed to the nation’s enhanced response capability against the pandemic based on lessons learned from the outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2015, including the full coverage of all people by the national health insurance program, which is essential in tracking all COVID-19 patients.
Korea has been recognized for having managed to trace, test and teat patents of COVID-19, whose number had once topped more than 10,000, without any lockdown. The number of COVID-19 patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus stood at 10,564, with 222 deaths as of April 14.
Korea’s mortality rate was about 1.4 percent, compared to 4 percent in the United States in which 554,226 people have tested for positive and deaths surged to 21,994.
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft praised Korea for its superb efforts to trace, test and treat COVID-19 cases in a U.S. TV talk show. Gates touted Korea for making the outcome of COVID-19 tests available within 24 hours.
The estimated cost of testing and treating COVID-19 cases amounted to 150 billion won, according to figures from the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS). Treating a COVID-19 patient who was in serious condition costs an average of 70 million won.
The figure includes 2.2 million won to use a ventilator, 7.4 million won for hemodialysis, and 10.8 million won for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). According to NHIS, about 1 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 cases was classified as “serious”.
The serious cases received treatment at hospitals for an average 77.4 days when the outbreak of MERS hit the nation in 2015. Cases who needed medical treatment even though they were not in a serious situation were hospitalized for an average 18.4 days, costing 11.96 million won on average in medical charges.
Medical costs of COVID-19 “lightly ill” cases who were given quarantine isolation at designated centers amounted to between 3.31 million won to 4.78 million won.
Based on the data, in the case of 10,000 COVID-19 cases, the total medical costs added up to an estimated 82.2 billion won to 89.5 billion won. Patients who were confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus were free for testing and treating them.
The reason is that 80 percent of the medical fees for insured COVID-19 patents was covered by the national health insurance program and the remaining 20 percent was shouldered by the government with taxes.
All foreigner cases inside Korea have their medical fees covered by the state. Some people took issue with the government shouldering medical fees of foreigners infected with COVID-19.
A senior official with the Korean Centre for Disease Control said if foreigners are asked to pay for testing, they may not be willing to take the test, and there is a possibility they would hide and spread the virus, since they could not afford the huge medical costs.
Costs of testing totaled 164,398 won per head. Of the about 381,600 people tested, 372,002 tested negative and 9,661 tested positive. The total cost adds up to an estimated 62.7 billion won. The national health insurance program’s coverage rate for testing the virus was 60 percent. The cost related to diagnostic kits amounted to about 20,000 won.
The bulk of the remaining cost went to diagnostic doctors. Five Korean diagnostic kit makers chalked up an estimated 7.6 billion won in total sales.
An NHIS official shrugged off the probability that the national health insurance program was over-burdened from the rising COVID-19 cases, saying cumulative funds reserved for the outbreak of infectious diseases are being utilized.