Health care for older persons: A country profile - Korea

Kyung Hwan Cho, Younho Chung, Yong Kyun Roh, Belong Cho, Cheol Ho Kim, Hong Soon Lee

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    The Korean healthcare system is faced with a crisis caused by rapidly changing social values tending toward westernization, increasing insurance benefit requests for elder health care, financial instability of the National Health Insurance (NHI) program, and a lack of social infrastructure for the elderly. The demand for health care for the elderly has increased markedly, because of a rapidly aging population, growing female participation in the labor market, elevated expectations for health care, and a change in the pattern of medical conditions in the elderly from acute illness to chronic disability. NHI lacks the finances to meet the benefit request for long-term care (LTC). Only 0.39% of the elderly can be accommodated in LTC beds. Consequently, the chronically disabled elderly overflow to acute care beds in general hospitals, which places an undue burden on the already strained NHI system in terms of longer stays and higher cost of treatment in hospitals compared with care specific to the elderly in LTC facilities. It is clear that the Korean healthcare system does not have the facilities to meet such challenges and is in a state of disorder. Korea has failed to predict and prepare for population needs before they arise, including financing and the development of appropriate care models, particularly concerning the adequate provision of LTC. This paper advocates the necessity of international discussion of the prospects for developing health care for aging populations and encourages the sharing of differing national experiences concerning care for the elderly.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1199-1204
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 2004 Jul


    • Aged
    • Health care
    • Korea
    • Long-term care

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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