NHRCK recommends improving the policies to ensure health rights for the homeless persons amid the COVID19 pandemic
- The National Human Rights Commission of Korea recommended abandoning the policy designating the medical treatment facilities for the homeless and revising the guidance of the medical care assistant for homeless persons -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song, hereinafter ‘NHRCK’) recommended the Ministry of Health and Welfare to abandon the policy of designating the medical treatment facilities for the homeless and to revise the medical care assistant guidance for these people so that there are no constraints in using the system. The recommendations were made to ensure the health rights for the homeless, which increasingly became vulnerable during the COVID19 pandemic.
1. The abolishment of the system designating the medical care facilities for the homeless
- The medical care system is a public assistance the government of the Republic of Korea provides to those who do not have the ability to sustain a certain level of living standard or have lost economic capacity. It is a social security system implemented to ensure the health rights for the low-income group, protecting them from illnesses and accidents.
- In accordance with the policy, medical facilities providing medical treatments for the homeless must be designated. The homeless who are in temporary shelters and self-support facilities need to use the designated hospitals in order to receive the medical care assistance. As of April 2021, There are 286 designated medical facilities nationwide.
- However, most of these facilities are concentrated in the metropolitan areas like Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province and the treatments the homeless can receive from the medical facilities are limited to only few areas. These shortcomings made it more difficult for the homeless persons to fully utilize the system.
- The COVID19 pandemic further complicated the situation as some of the facilities that were initially designated for the homeless to use were also chosen to treat the COVID19 patients. With the COVID19 in full swing, It became even more difficult for the homeless persons at the temporary shelters and self-support centers to receive proper treatments for their medical conditions.
- The NHRCK, in order to improve the homeless persons’ access to the medical treatment system, recommended abolishing the law designating the medical treatment facilities. In the meantime, the Commission recommended the Ministry of Health and Welfare to designate more medical facilities as a temporary measure before revising the policy to prevent any medical treatment vacuum.
2. The revision on the medical care assistant guidance for the homeless
- Under the current policy, a homeless person must be residing or have resided at a temporary facility or a self-support center for more than three consecutive months or more to become eligible to receive medical care assistance. The head of a homeless care facility needs to send the application form, completed by a homeless person himself/herself, to a local government in order for him/her to receive the medical care assistant benefit.
- However, out of seventeen metropolitan cities and provinces, thirteen local governments have no temporary facility for the homeless, four local governments have no self-support center and four local governments have neither temporary shelter nor self-support center for the homeless.
- For this reason, the homeless persons can easily be excluded from getting the assistance they need as it is difficult for the homeless to submit the application form in the first place even though he/she is eligible to be a beneficiary.
- The NHRCK, therefore, recommended the Ministry of Health and Welfare to revise the “guidance on the welfare system for the homeless” so that the homeless persons in the area where there’s no care center for the homeless can also have easy access to the medical care assistance.
The right to health is one of the basic rights in order to sustain life with dignity. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea looks forward to seeing more thoughtful policies being introduced so as to protect the health rights of the homeless in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic.