Healthcare! It's Universal!

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Kyla D.

Let's be real. As someone who lives in the United States, let's just say I'm extremely aware of the limitations of a privatized healthcare system. 

As reported by Deb Gordon at Forbes, a study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund in 2023 reported with a sample of more than 6,000 adults under 65, half (51%) said it was very difficult to afford healthcare. [Here's a link on the survey, and here is the link for the Forbes Article!] 

South Korea, in comparison, then has been a great change of pace since healthcare is much more affordable. Of course, that isn't to say that the healthcare system here is perfect, as despite the research I've done I'm not too familiar with all of the ins and outs of South Korean healthcare. Regardless, I've had a pretty good experience with healthcare here, and if you are interested in coming to South Korea in this post I wanted to detail two great experiences that may provide you with some context! 

See No E....well really I can't see at all: 

Ignoring the corny (but creative) title, after a night of fun on the streets of Hongdae and a long rest, I woke up the next morning to some bad news. As I opened my bag to look for my glasses, I was instead greeted with broken ones. 

In a room against a wooden background - a hand holds a pair of glasses, with a broken hinge and no arm


Only showing half of the pair of glass, a broken hinge on a pair of glasses, with no arm

My (home) insurance unfortunately doesn't cover another pair of glasses as I got these ones this year. In a slight panic, I took to Google to search for place where I can get new ones. I ended up finding 가나안경원 명동 Gana Optical located in  Myeongdong. Their reviews were amazing (5.0 stars on google)! So, with my friends, I headed there as soon as I had the time and boy was I suprised. To begin, the costumer service was amazing--the staff were very nice (they treated us with Yakut), and very accommodating to foreigners. 

Then, I was excited to learn that my new pair of glasses would only cost me about 30 dollars, including a new prescription, blue light technology, and in an in-store fitting. Overall it took me about 10 minutes to choose a pair of new glasses, and about 20 minutes to develop them. I left same-day with a brand near pair of glasses, and a tax refund to seal the deal. 

For some additional context, my original pair of glasses cost 99 dollars for the frames, and about 120 dollars for the lenses and a new prescription! Safe to say, I'm very happy with my results and I'm planning to go back again for another pair! 

How to get away with Insurance Fraud: 

Okay, just for the record, I have never, ever, ever committed Insurance fraud. This is only for comedic purposes only. 

Now, an important thing to prepare for when you come to South Korea is National Insurance. Exchange students are automatically enrolled after they apply for their ARC. It will run you about $55 USD per month (after the first payment which is a bit more). 

The good thing is that it is very comprehensive as it covers up to (link for more information on it):

  • "up to 80% of inpatient treatments and medical services. The service also covers 30 – 70% of outpatient treatments and medical services. In general, the covered amount gets deducted from your medical bill when you check out of the medical institution". 

Furthermore, you can just pay it at any CU or EMart which is very convenient. 

What I want to talk about with the process of insurance, is the possibility of exemption. If you have personal insurance (maybe from your parents or from your university) if it's international and similar to the National Insurance here in South Korea it is possible to get exempt (of course please budget for the National Insurance regardless as not all insurance is able to do this), saving you some money in the long run. If you know what insurance fraud is, then you know why I say this felt too good to be true, but my friends and I, both with personal insurance and university insurance was able to be exempt. 

I want to highlight just how easy this process was. All we did was go to the  National Health Insurance Center for Foreign Nationals with our printed insurance forms (translated with papago which is also very convenient)  and in about 5 minutes (as there was no line) were exempt from paying National Insurance! The process didn't even require any passport documents or anything. 

Of course, please make sure to do your research and take everything with a grain of salt, but I hope this blog highlights just how simple healthcare can be in South Korea.