South Korea

Membership: Full Member

A country with universal health coverage

South Korea achieved universal health coverage in 1989, twelve years after the launch of the National Health Insurance Program. Population coverage has expanded since 1977 in successions starting with salaried workers and employees, followed by disadvantaged populations (including low-income and unemployed), then self-employed and public workers. Coverage extended to the remaining urban and rural populations in 1989. In the following years, the government has continued to reform the health care system and delivery mechanisms in response to social and political changes, resulting in a single-pay system in 2000.

The Context

South Korea achieved universal health coverage in 1989, twelve years after the launch of the National Health Insurance Program. Population coverage has expanded since 1977 in successions starting with salaried workers and employees, followed by disadvantaged populations (including low-income and unemployed), then self-employed and public workers. Coverage extended to the remaining urban and rural populations in 1989.  In the following years, the government has continued to reform the health care system and delivery mechanisms in response to social and political changes, resulting in a single-pay system in 2000. 

Key Reforms

The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) is the single-insurer in charge of operating and managing the national health insurance scheme. Along its journey towards UHC, NHIS has experienced many reforms and challenges such as the enrollment of the informal sector workers to NHI, integration of multiple insurers, introduction of long-term care insurance to the aging, and integrated collection of four major social insurance contributions. The Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service (HIRA) evaluates the medical fee, quality of care, and adequacy of medical service.