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International Health Insurance for Expats in South Korea

Check out Pacific Prime’s guide to the South Korean healthcare system and international health insurance plans for expats!

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Health Insurance for Expats and Foreigners in South Korea

Expats are required to sign up with Korea’s National Health Insurance (NHI) system if staying longer than six months in the country. Foreign residents looking for access to private facilities and global coverage can purchase an international health insurance policy as well.

South Korea is an attractive location for expats with its top-quality medical system, but medical bills can accumulate quickly. Understanding your health insurance options before you relocate to the country is key to protecting yourself from expensive healthcare costs. 

This guide offers a practical summary of healthcare and insurance in South Korea, as well as options from health insurance companies for expats. Read on to learn more, or click the button below to obtain a no-obligation, free quote.

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The Healthcare System in South Korea

South Korea has one of the most modern and developed healthcare systems in the world. Both public and private sectors provide first-class levels of care and health treatments. Medical professionals across the country are all highly trained and experienced. 

Public health facilities provide excellent care, but wait times are often incredibly long. This is true even for emergencies. Since all South Koreans are required to sign up with the National Health Insurance (NHI), public facilities can grow crowded quickly. 

The NHI supplies healthcare coverage to all South Korean residents, with the Medical Aid program covering the remaining small percent of the population who are low-income. We will discuss the National Health Insurance system in greater detail below.

 

Public Health Insurance in South Korea

All foreigners residing in South Korea for longer than six months are required to enroll in NHI. Expats working for South Korean companies with more than five foreign employees will be automatically enrolled in NHI through their employer.

The NHI system is run by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and is available for every resident in the country regardless of nationality, background, or profession including expats. It is funded through government subsidies, tobacco surcharges, and other contributions.

National Health Insurance Service Costs and Coverage

The NHIS ensures medical costs are subsidized for the most part, including curative care, dental care, and prescribed medication for expats at public health hospitals and clinics. 

NHI members will be charged monthly premiums based on salary and other factors. 

NHIS members are also charged with copayments for all medical services. The cost of the copayments varies with the type of service. For instance, copayments are around 20% of inpatient care and 30-50% of outpatient care.

The coverage offered by the NHIS includes: 

  • General procedures
  • Regular medical checkups
  • Accidents
  • Prescription medication

Before expats can enroll with the NHI, they will need an approved Alien Registration Card (ARC).

How Expats Can Apply for Health Insurance in South Korea

Expats must first apply for the ARC before being eligible to enroll in the NHI system. Registration can normally be done at the nearest immigration office where paperwork can be completed and submitted. 

Documents required for the ARC include:

  • Application Form
  • Passport 
  • 1 Color Photo
  • Proof of Residence
  • Application Fee of KRW 30,000

One important point to note is that it can take a number of months to receive the ARC, and during this time an expat is not covered by the scheme. Because of this lapse in time, it is wise to consider securing a private health insurance plan to cover any medical expenses.

 

Private Insurance in South Korea

Private insurance is available through local insurance companies or international insurance companies. Expats with chronic illnesses or special medical needs will especially value private policies for the benefit of lowering copayment charges.

While private insurance won’t change the cost of medical procedures, it will subsidize the out-of-pocket payment required when using the NHI. International insurance is a popular choice with expats for private policies. This is due to their global benefits and comprehensive coverage.

International insurance policies can be purchased through travel insurance or health insurance policies. Travel insurance covers medical costs in case of accidents or sickness, as well as lost baggage or rescheduling fees. Travel insurance is generally short-term.

Expats looking to move to India will need a longer-term, more inclusive solution for healthcare. This is precisely what international health insurance provides.

 

Best International Health Insurance for Expats in South Korea

The top international health insurance providers will offer plans for expats in South Korea with comprehensive coverage and customizable benefits.

Here is a list of the best international health insurance providers in South Korea:

 

International Health Insurance in South Korea - Plans and Coverage

The best international health insurance companies for expats in South Korea include Cigna, BUPA Global, and more. We will offer a brief overview below of each provider and the key points and benefits of their plans and coverage. 

Cigna

Cigna Global provides flexible insurance plans to expats in South Korea with 24/7 access to a customer care team. Their plans are both customizable and comprehensive.

Cigna has Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans with different levels of coverage and limits. All three of these plans share several common key coverage benefits:

  • Hospitalization 
  • Inpatient and day-patient treatments
  • Cancer treatments 
  • Physiotherapy
  • Accidental death or total permanent disability compensation

Bupa Global

Bupa Global offers their members tailor-made plans and guaranteed lifetime renewal. They provide high-quality service with a personal relationship manager available for their members.

Some of the features Bupa’s plans offer include:

  • Inpatient coverage
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation 
  • 24/7 access to medical advice through the Bupa Global service center
  • Direct access to specialists without referral

NOW Health

NOW Health International offers expats in South Korea comprehensive health insurance solutions, as well as providing plans for international students. They offer online claim processes through a mobile app and provide other prompt online support.

They have several different tiers of plans: WorldCare Advance, WorldCare Excel, and WorldCare Apex. These plans differ in annual limits and coverage options.

These are the key benefits shared across all three benefits:

  • In-patient and day-patient care
  • Organ transplant
  • Evacuation and repatriation
  • Cancer treatment
  • Rehabilitation

MSH International

MSH has almost 50 years of experience in providing health insurance to expats and their families. With features like online claim reimbursement and medical teleconsultations, they are dedicated to their members' support and wellness.

Their insurance plans come in differing levels from Quartz to Diamond, with the most expensive plan offering the highest coverage limits and additional benefits. Here are some of the basic features across their plans:

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Hospitalization
  • Cancer treatment
  • Emergency evacuation

Aetna

Aetna is a Fortune 100 company in the United States and offers expats comprehensive quality healthcare coverage in South Korea. They offer flexible and customizable benefits plans with additional options for medical, vision, dental, and pharmacy coverage.

Aetna offers expats international coverage through their Pioneer plans. These plans range in coverage and limits with five levels of coverage to choose from.

 The basic coverage for their plans includes:

  • Inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment (up to 90 days)
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Rehabilitation up to 120 days
  • Emergency dental and optical treatment

April International

April International has over 30 years of experience in the international health insurance market. They provide both comprehensive and flexible plans to expats while in South Korea. They provide varying levels of coverage, fully customizable policies, and a wide direct billing network.

They offer different levels of coverage in four plan options: Core, Essential, Extensive, and Elite.

Some of the shared coverage across their plans are:

  • 24/7 Evacuation, repatriation, and assistance services
  • Hospital and Surgeries
  • Cancer treatments

GeoBlue

GeoBlue offers an Xplorer health insurance plan that comes in essential or premier. These plans were created for expats traveling from the United States for business, leisure, or study trips. Expats can choose plans that include the United States in their coverage or not.

Both plans have several deductible options. Some shared features across all levels of plans are:

  • Diagnostic lab work and X-rays
  • Surgery
  • Inpatient medical emergencies
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation
  • Yearly physicals 

For more information about the cost of international health insurance, check out Pacific Prime’s 2023 Cost of International Health Insurance Report.

 

Additional Benefits and Coverage 

Most insurance plans allow additional coverage options to extend expats’ benefits during their time in South Korea. This could cover things like dental, optical, maternity, and more.

  • Dental: Dental check-ups, cleanings, and major dental procedures can be covered by additional benefits.
  • Maternity and family coverage: Expats looking to expand their family can customize international health insurance plans to cover prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care. There are also additional benefits to cover the newborn.
  • Preventive care: Some plans will offer regular health checkups, screenings, vaccinations, and wellness programs. This can be a great benefit as South Korean healthcare focuses more on curative care than preventive care.

 

Pre-existing Conditions

Expats with pre-existing conditions may have fewer options when buying international insurance in South Korea, but there are still solutions available. You can choose a plan with a pre-existing condition exclusion, a moratorium, or coverage with loading.

Here is a general overview of what each term means:

  • Exclusion: The insurer will not pay or reimburse the policyholder for medical bills related to the condition if they choose to buy a plan from them.
  • Moratorium: The insurance company offers health insurance but excludes pre-existing condition coverage. The company then observes the pre-existing condition for a specific time known as the waiting period. This period is usually 24 months, and the insurance company reviews its decision.
  • Coverage with loading: Insurance companies may offer coverage for pre-existing conditions, but only with higher premiums. Not all pre-existing conditions are eligible for this kind of coverage, and not all companies offer this option.

 

Retirees Seeking International Healthcare in South Korea

Expats retiring in South Korea should buy an international health insurance plan that offers comprehensive and flexible coverage for their unique needs. This may include coverage for cancer screenings, chronic conditions support, and preventative health benefits.

Reach out to Pacific Prime to hear all our international insurance plans for retirees in South Korea. We can help secure a plan with excellent coverage for your needs, as well as provide access to all the best private facilities.

 

How Expats Can Use Healthcare Services in South Korea

Expats can use any healthcare clinic or hospital in South Korea, but they will pay 100% of the cost unless they are covered by the NHI or a private health insurance policy. Expats can make an appointment online at the hospital or clinic website.

Hospitals are typically the first stop for all sicknesses, regardless of how mild. Each hospital in Korea has its own website, which expats can use to find a provider. English-speaking doctors are common in South Korea, especially at international hospitals.

 

Conclusion 

Expats residing in South Korea for longer than six months are required to enroll with the NHI, but international health insurance remains a valuable option for expats looking to extend their coverage and benefits.

With extensive years of experience throughout the world, Pacific Prime can assist you with any health insurance needs in South Korea. Leveraging our close relationships with major insurers all over the world, we offer professional advice and free plan comparisons to our clients.

No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can match you with a policy that best fits you. Please contact us today for a free consultation.

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Do foreigners have free healthcare in South Korea?

Foreigners are able to enroll in the NHI program in South Korea, but it is not free. In addition to monthly premiums, copayments will be made for every medical service. These can range from 20% or more of the total cost depending on the treatment. 

2. Is healthcare high quality in South Korea? 

South Korea is known worldwide for its high-quality healthcare and medical services. The average life expectancy is longer in South Korea than in most other countries as well, and even cancer recovery rates are higher in the country.

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