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S. Korea: Welfare Policy to Focus on the Poorest
Source: www.koreaherald.com
Source Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Focus: Health
Created: Dec 28, 2010

Next year’s welfare policy will prioritize relieving people in severe poverty, with more customized services offered to different demands in general, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday in its annual policy report.

“The key welfare issue should be delivering the sign of economic recovery, which is expected to accelerate next year, to every corner of the nation,” said Minister Chin Soo-hee in her policy report to President Lee Myung-bak.

For the support programs aimed at eradicating absolute poverty, 190,000 people from low-income households ― a drastic increase from the current 50,000 beneficiaries ― have been selected.

As well as helping them land a job, the government will regularly monitor their employment status.

In order to strengthen the responsibility of local offices and welfare facilities, financial incentives will be offered according to their performance in decreasing the number of people who receive a government livelihood subsidy.

The “Hope bankbook” also will be given to 15,000 people so that they can gather the amount of money necessary to be self-reliant.

If the bankbook owner succeeds in improving finances beyond the threshold for government subsidies, he or she would be supported with medical and education benefits for two years.

The government is also considering covering their national insurance payment for some time.

Amid a falling birthrate, the beneficiaries of child care support will be extended to middle-income households, except for those in the top 30 percent of the income bracket, from March.

The ministry also decided to clarify the different functions of general hospitals and private clinics to prevent general hospitals from being crowded with patients with mild symptoms.

General hospitals will be instructed to concentrate on severe diseases and research and development work, while patients would be required to pay more when they visit a general hospital for the treatment of more minor problems.

In order to improve the worsening state of health care financing, the government will streamline the payment system, imposing more on higher income earners.

The ministry also set a goal to become one of the world’s top seven powerhouses in the health care industry by 2015.

Along with attracting 300,000 foreign patients by 2015, the government will export 100 “hospital plants” abroad by packaging hospitals, health care technology, medical staff and equipment.

The plan would focus on developing countries as part of the nation’s official development assistance.

The government will make more efforts to nurture young medical scientists in their 20s and 30s, a plan tentatively called the “Nobel Prize Project.”

The government expects that about 360,000 new jobs will be created in the coming two years as part of the new welfare policy programs.

Saying that next year’s welfare expenditure will be the largest ever, Lee urged the development of a “Korean-style welfare system.”

“Job creation is the best welfare policy. The reason why we should continue to grow and rein in consumer prices is closely related to our welfare policy,” Lee added.
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