The government said it would run a pilot program to allow herbal medicines to receive the national health insurance coverage from October, despite the protest from the medical community.
Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association (KMA), said he participated in the 25-membered Health Insurance Policy Deliberation Committee to oppose the government’s plan but could not block the move. He warned that the doctors' group would aggressively fight against the government.
|Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip (right) and Vice President Bang Sang-hyuk participated in the Health Insurance Policy Deliberation Committee on Friday to oppose the government’s plan to give health insurance benefits to herbal medicines.|
The Ministry of Health and Welfare reported its plan to run the pilot project at the meeting of the committee on Friday.
The project aims to relieve the burden of the public receiving Oriental medicine treatment and build grounds for the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines through an improvement of the national health insurance system.
The pilot program will apply to outpatients who are subscribers of the national health insurance if they get herbal medicines at Oriental medicine clinics, participating in the pilot project, for either of the three symptoms -- facial nerve paralysis, cerebrovascular disease side effects (aged 65 or more), and menstrual pain.
If 20 packets of herbal medicine for a 10-day medication cost 108,760 won to 150,880 won, the health insurance covers 50 percent of the cost for up to 10 days. Then, the patient will pay only 51,700 won to 72,700 won for the herbal medicine.
After the health insurance policy deliberation committee meeting, Choi said he thoroughly explained to the government why it was wrong to give herbal medicine health insurance coverage. “If they want to do so, they must first create a particular body consisting of the Oriental medicine community and the government to verify the safety of herbal medicines,” he said.
He went on to say that government policy should not harm patient safety. “Running a pilot program without securing the safety (of herbal medicine) goes against the principle of evidence-based medicine,” Choi added.
The government pushed to increase medical school admissions quotas on Thursday and confirmed the pilot program for herbal medicines on Friday, which was not acceptable to the KMA, he said. “We have no option but to fight against the government aggressively. As we warned, after we go on a strike on Aug. 14, we will see how the government responds. Then, we will plan a second strike in September,” Choi said.
The government seems to have misunderstood that they could persuade the medical community by a dialogue, saying doctors were excessively worried, he noted. However, doctors dealt with their vocational duty, ethics, responsibility for the safety of patients and the public, which were fundamental issues, he said.
“There is no room for negotiation. We will fight to demand the government reconsider the plan to increase doctors and scrap the pilot run of herbal medicine reimbursement,” he added.
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