Korean medical tourism centre opens in Russia

Incheon city and Incheon Tourism Corp. have opened a medical tourism consultation centre in Irkutsk, Russia.

Russia has the second largest number of foreign patients who visit Incheon, followed by China. The number of Russian patients who visited Incheon increased 66% in 2018, despite the small 2% decrease in the total number of Russian patients visiting Korea.

The medical tourism consultation centre acts as a marketing base for consulting and attracting medical tourists, strengthening local networks in Russia, and finding students interested in Incheon’s beauty academies.

Incheon has selected China, Russia, Central Asia and Southeast Asia as the four major strategic markets, and is pursuing target marketing for each region by following their market characteristics.

Incheon plans to launch another medical tourism consultation centre in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the second half of 2018 to attract patients from Central Asia.

The Korean government will strengthen regulations in the country’s health insurance programme to prevent foreigners from abusing the system.

The minimum stay requirement to receive benefits from the national health insurance programme will be extended from the current three months to six months, and it will be mandatory for all those who stay in the country for more than six months to sign up for the programme, according to the Ministry of Health.

The latest move comes amid an increasing number of foreigners as well as overseas Koreans visiting South Korea temporarily and leaving after receiving medical treatment without paying insurance fees. According to the ministry, foreigners who fail to pay premiums will face tougher punishment when they renew their visas or seek to re-enter the country.

The ministry did not give any specific timeframe for when the strengthened regulations will take effect. It is expected that the new rules will take effect in the second half of 2018.

Currently, foreigners who stay in the country for more than three months can voluntarily join the national health insurance programme. In 2017, 913,000 foreigners, including South Koreans living abroad, signed up for the state health insurance programme.