Foreign Workers Who Paid Health Insurance Premiums Should Be Allowed Access to Healthcare Even After Change of Status
With regards to the case related to the loss of health insurance coverage of a foreign worker after a change of status, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson of Young-ae Choi) issued a recommendation to the Minister of Health and Welfare and the President of the National Health Insurance Service(NHIS) that they revise related regulations to allow foreigners to maintain their health insurance despite the change in their visas.
The complainant, who arrived in Korea under a work permit system in 2015, paid for an employer-sponsored health insurance for about five years. The work permit expired in June 2020, but the complainant was allowed to stay on a G-1 visa due to delayed wage payment and inquired the National Health Insurance Service about how to maintain or repurchase health insurance coverage. The healthcare administration responded that foreigners who stayed on a G-1 visa are not eligible to purchase individual healthcare plans.
Regarding the refusal to provide coverage for the complainant, the NHIS explained that it would undermine the basic principles of national health insurance of promoting social solidarity if foreigners who stay on a temporary resident visa are permitted to purchase individual insurance coverage. The NHIS also expressed concern that such decision might lead to a spike in temporary stay visa applications among foreigners who seek to obtain health insurance benefits.
The NHRCK’s Committee on Human Rights Violations observed that the principles of social solidarity of national health insurance schemes are to pay premiums based on a subscriber’s income levels or their ability to pay and apply for benefits when they have suffered any illness. According to the Committee, the principles of social solidarity would be weakened by the denial of access to medical care for foreigners who have paid premiums for a certain period of time and switched to a different type of visa.
In relation to concerns over a possible spike in temporary visa applications, the Committee explained that foreigners are unlikely to take advantage of temporary resident visas for medial purposes as the eligibility criteria for these types of visas are clearly stated and the visas are granted only for those applications approved by the Ministry of Justice.
The Committee concluded that denying access to individual coverage for long-term foreign residents staying on a G-1 visa after the expiry of their work permits does not serve the purpose of the national health insurance scheme and will likely create a gap in medical care, and issued a recommendation to the Minister of Health and Welfare and the President of the National Health Insurance Service to revise relevant regulations to address these issues.
Meanwhile, the NHRCK decided to reject the case submitted by the complainant, as the complaint relating to the national health insurance system should be considered in light of a State’s obligation to promote social security under Article 34(2) of the Constitution and cannot be seen as a human rights violation or an act of discrimination, as laid out in Articles 10 to 22 of the Constitution. Nevertheless, the Commission made its recommendations on the revision of relevant regulations, since it needs to review whether the health authorities’decision is in line with Article 6 of the Constitution as well as relevant provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as mandated by Articles 19(1) and 25(1) of the National Human Rights Commission Act.