Students can choose between the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) and a private insurance program, which are very similar each other. As for Ewha’s foreign students, due to the lack of information provided, most have chosen the private program suggested by the school.
Previously, foreign students and their spouses and children under 20 were eligible to apply for insurance, but subscription for foreign students was not mandatory. Besides students, foreign nationals with proof of having stayed in Korea for more than three months were also eligible for subscribing. For these foreign nationals, subscription still remains optional.
The Health and Welfare Ministry (HWM) announced on Feb. 2 that it would temporarily exempt foreign students who receive benefits from subscribing to the insurance from paying an extra premium on the condition that they subscribe between March 1 and April 30.
Under the national insurance law, foreigners who apply for insurance after their arrival in Korea are required to pay the full amount of premium for the period of time they have stayed uninsured.
“If a foreign student applies for insurance a year after arriving in Korea, a one-year premium is mandatory to benefit from the insurance,” said an official from HWM who wishes to stay anonymous. “As the late fees could be burdensome, the ministry decided to exempt the fees for foreigners who subscribe in the first two months.”
More than 89,000 foreign students studying in Korea held D-2 visas as of November 2014. As the number gradually increases, a considerable number of students need to subscribe to insurance .
Students agree with the government and school’s intention to better secure their living conditions during their stay.
“For foreigners like us, finding and registering for insurance by ourselves is difficult,” said Samatchaya (Journalism, 3), a student from Thailand. “It is great that each university is providing us options in subscribing to an insurance program.”
However, some foreign students call for more detailed procedures in notices given of the changes and information on the options of insurance companies they can choose from.
“We did not get enough information from the government or the school that we had the choice of choosing other insurance companies if we were not satisfied with the one the school had suggested,” said Leelakajornkit Shadaporn (Television & Film, 2), a student from Thailand.
Furthermore, some students feel the financial burden of insurance programs.
“Maybe insurance is good for us, but it costs students a lot of money,” said Dan Jeong (Business, 3), a student from China.