By Kim Tae-gyu
Beginning next year, expensive dental implants will be covered by national health insurance for those aged 75 years or older. The coverage will include those aged 70 and above in 2015 and from 65 in 2016.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) reported the plans and other welfare policies Thursday to President Park Geun-hye, who made similar pledges during her election campaign last year.
The ministry also reaffirmed its plan that from 2016, national health insurance will start to fully cover the costs of treating serious illnesses, including cancer and diseases of the heart, brain and blood vessels.
For ultrasound examinations, health insurance coverage will start this October.
"We will come up with specifics this June on the coverage of dental implants but the policy will start next year. Regarding the coverage of serious illnesses, details will also be announced by June," a MOHW official said.
In the report to Cheong Wa Dae, the first from ministries to the new leader, the ministry reiterated its commitment to launching monthly allowances of up to 200,000 won ($179.24) for those aged 65 or above, beginning next July.
Park asked the ministry to rebuff the misunderstanding that those who subscribe to the National Pension Service (NPS) will lose out in getting benefits.
"Please let people know that their benefits will increase whether or not they are included in the NPS scheme," presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing quoted Park as saying.
By 2015, the government will also provide subsidies of up to 300,000 won a month, up 50 percent from the current maximum of 200,000 won, for parents to place children aged 3-5 in day-care facilities.
The MOHW also said it will make efforts to boost medical tourism here, pledging to attract 500,000 overseas patients and encourage some 150 local hospitals to tap into global markets by 2017.
In addition, it hopes to nurture high value-added technologies, including patient-specific cell therapy, by bringing together medical services and information technology.
Through such programs, the ministry seeks to create 200,000 new jobs in the medical industry and an additional 400,000 in the social service sector.
Meanwhile, the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) said it will form a task force soon along with related ministries to eradicate adulterated foods, which Park classified as one of four primary social evils to tackle.
In a report to President Park, the KFDA said that it will fine purveyors of adulterated food up to 10 times the revenue they earn. Toward that end, the agency plans to revise the relevant law.
It also expressed its willingness to crack down on any unregistered food vendors within a 200-meter radius of schools, to protect children from unhealthy junk food.