‘If Korea begins charging Covid treatment, low-income earners will suffer’ – KBR

As the Korean government prepares to charge Covid-19 treatment, doctors called for a plan to support low-income households.
“While citizens have been able to receive Covid-19 treatment free of charge until now, controversy may arise when the government changes the system where patients have to bear some of the cost for Covid-19 treatment,” Professor Chun Eun-mi at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital told Newsis, a local media outlet. “Therefore, it is necessary to develop a plan to support the cost of Covid-19 treatment for the low-income group.”
According to the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), the average daily medical cost for a patient suffering from the most severe Covid-19 symptoms from January to September last year was 1.53 million won ($1,166).
Patients with the most severe Covid-19 symptoms are defined as those who have received mechanical ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), and continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) treatment during hospitalization.
As the average number of hospitalization days for such patients was 12.7 days, the average total cost of treatment per patient was 19.42 million won.
However, the NHIS said that the results were collected from the data submitted for claiming medical care benefit costs for medical institutions and that it may differ from the actual treatment costs of patients with severe Covid-19.
Earlier, Jung Ki-suck, head of the National Advisory Committee on Infectious Diseases Crisis Response, had said the individual might bear about 20 percent of the medical expenses if pneumonia occurs due to a respiratory disease such as Covid-19.
Thus, the financial burden on severe Covid-19 patients will presumably be high, observers said. 
Patients who show the most severe symptoms of Covid-19 may have to pay up to 3.88 million won in total, they said.
Daily Covid-19 cases remain high
Such concerns from doctors come as Covid-19 pandemic concerns still remain.
Although the daily Covid-19 cases have decreased since the height of the pandemic, Korea is reporting around 10,000 cases a day.
On Thursday, Korea added 7,561 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the total caseload to 30,533,573, according to the KDCA.
While the number of new confirmed cases is 4,730 fewer than the Wednesday (12,291), health officials stressed that the decrease in diagnostic tests during the March 1 holiday had an effect.
Also, reinfected people increase as immunity decreases over time and new variants emerge.
According to the KDCA, the rate of reinfection among 78,747 new confirmed cases in the third week of February was 26.11 percent. Among them, the proportion of the elderly aged 60 years or older, a representative high-risk group, reached 43.7 percent.