The Ministry of Health and Welfare has decided to exempt foreign students from the mandatory subscription to the national health insurance program by expatriates who stay for six months or longer in Korea.
The new amendment will exempt expat students until February 2021. From March 2021, however, students will also have to join the obligatory subscription of the national health insurance program like other foreign residents, meaning those who stay here for six months or longer.
The ministry announced the revision of the National Health Insurance Act, set to take effect on July 16, stating that all foreigners, including students, must join the state insurance system if they stay here six months or longer. The change aimed to prevent foreigners from taking advantage of the health insurance program to get expensive treatments and leave the country.
After the announcement, concerns arose among 100,000 international students studying in Korea, who had to pay sharply higher insurance premiums than what they had been paying.
Currently, most international students enjoy these benefits paying just 100,000 won to 110,000 won ($85-$94) per year. Under the new amendment, however, international students will have to pay 113,050 won a month. Although the ministry planned to cut the fee by up to 50 percent considering the income and the availability of international students, the new plan was met with fierce complaints and reactions from foreign students who were using a much cheaper insurance plan.
"The exemption of students is based on the Ministry of Education's opinion that the government has to take into account the special circumstances of foreign students,” a health-welfare ministry official said.