Health care utilization and costs among medical-aid enrollees, the poor not enrolled in medical-aid, and the near poor in South Korea

Jae Woo Choi, Eun Cheol Park, Sung Youn Chun, Kyu Tae Han, Euna Han, Tae Hyun Kim

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Although government has implemented medical-aid policy that provides assistance to the poor with almost free medical services, there are low-income people who do not receive necessary medical services in Korea. The aim of this study is to highlight the characteristics of Medical-Aid enrollees, the poor not enrolled in Medical-Aid, and the near poor and their utilization and costs for health care. Methods: This study draws on the 2012 Korea Welfare Panel Study (KOWEPS), a nationally representative dataset. We divided people with income less than 120% of the minimum cost of living (MCL) into three groups (n = 2,784): the poor enrolled in Medical-Aid, the poor not enrolled in Medical-Aid (at or below 100% of MCL), and the near poor (100-120% of MCL). Using a cross-sectional design, this study provides an overview of health care utilization and costs of these three groups. Results: The findings of the study suggest that significantly lower health care utilization was observed for the poor not enrolled in Medical-Aid compared to those enrolled in Medical-Aid. On the other hand, two groups (the poor not enrolled in Medical-Aid, the near poor) had higher health care costs, percentage of medical expenses to income compared to Medical-Aid. Conclusion: Given the particularly low rate of the population enrolled in Medical-Aid, similarly economically vulnerable groups are more likely to face barriers to needed health services. Meeting the health needs of these groups is an important consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Korean Medical Association Grant funded by the Korean Government (award number: 2013–94). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The English in this document has been checked by at least two professional editors, both native speakers of English.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Choi et al.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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