With the recent global economic crisis posing a threat to public health, the importance of health security as a social safety net is growing. Bucking the trend, more than 8% of South Koreans are currently excluded from its health-security scheme due to financial, managerial, and political factors, and even the level of health security coverage remains a mere 60%. Moreover, medical-bill assistance and emergency aid projects fail to offer sufficient solutions to the blind spots of health security due to the complicated and segmented assistance provided, managerial issues, and the low level of coverage. As a result, the number of households in South Korea that spends more than 10% of what they can afford to pay on their medical-bills accounts for a remarkable 10-15% of the total number of households, and the South Korean adults’ medical insufficiency represents 3-10%. These blind spots of health security pose a bigger threat to the nation under an economic crisis.
For short-term measures to address the blind spots of health security under an economic crisis, prompt action is necessary,with the parts working in coordination and with the help of stern arbitration regimes in such problematic areas as the existing medical insurance, healthcare bills, the different standards between medical-bill assistance and emergency aid projects, administrative confusion, and the untimely decision-making process. As for mid- to longer-term measures, the existing health safety net should be restructured. The treatment-centered health safety net should be transformed into the concept of prevention and health enhancement, with the addition of rehabilitation and rejoining the society. Furthermore, the inclusion of those who have been left in the blind spots of the health-security system among the beneficiaries of the major relevant policies is necessary, along with the inclusion of resource procurement and service delivery through the private sector in the said framework. In addition, a mechanism that establishes an operating system where the civil society and the concerned parties can participate in, and that monitors projects in a consistent manner, is required. It should be designed and managed in such a way that it will be in good coordination with the social safety net in the areas of income, housing, education, and culture. In addition, the settlement of the blind spots of the health-security system should be made a matter for political discussion, and consideration must be given to the stark reinforcement of security for the public healthcare system and to the integration of the systems. Moreover, the quantitative expansion and qualitative enhancement of the public health system should be sought through the development and implementation of projects that target the extension of assistance to the underprivileged. In an economic crisis, a series of policies that trigger a rise in medical bills should be sublated while preferentially putting much effort in securing a high quality of reasonable medical-service delivery systems based on publicity to maintain the effectiveness of such safety net.
The settlement of the issues regarding the blind spots of the health-security system with enhanced security assumes the nature of a political process. Accordingly, the successful establishment of a firm health safety net lies in the following factors: the expansion of the discussion on the value of social solidarity, which surpasses unlimited competition and market discussion political leaderships securing effective political means with the public supportstable resources policymakers dedicated to the establishment of a medical safety net related working experts on the frontline and the relevant capabilities and efforts of the civil society. A firm health safety net will serve as a critical base in overcoming an economic crisis.