Journal List > J Korean Acad Oral Health > v.41(4) > 1057743

J Korean Acad Oral Health. 2017 Dec;41(4):229-230. English.
Published online December 31, 2017.
Copyright © 2017 by Journal of Korean Academy of Oral Health
Reformation of the health insurance system: an urgent need for dental research
Se-Hwan Chung, Academic Director, The Korean Academy of Oral Health

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

This year, the 40th anniversary of the National Health Insurance System in the Republic of Korea, has seen the emergence of diverse assessments and new prospects. In particular, Moon Jae-in Care―a plan to reduce medical costs to the public by transitioning non-benefit categories to benefit categories―is recognized as a groundbreaking advance in the strengthening and broadening of health insurance coverage, and its announcement in August has sparked new discussions.

Over the past ten years, health insurance has attracted much attention due to the expansion of dental benefits to include preventative measures such as national oral health examination, sealants, and scaling, as well as prosthetic items such as dentures and implants for the elderly. A 20% reduction in costs to patients for sealants was introduced in October this year, followed by the same for dentures in November, and resin filling for permanent teeth in pediatric patients aged 12 years and below is scheduled for addition to the benefits bracket in 2018. Such reforms have intensified discussions on health insurance in relation to dental services.

Despite this heated interest, Moon Jae-in Care appears to disregard dentistry, with a sole focus on the field of medicine. Public announcements made by government officials indicate that dentistry is not considered relevant to the major goal of the reform package, the purpose of which is to address the problematic effects of expenditure due to severe disease and catastrophic health conditions on disposable income.

Moon Jae-in care proposes to improve patient health by including in the benefits bracket all medical procedures, with the exception of aesthetics and cosmetic surgery. This implies that dentistry makes no direct contribution to promoting public health; a point of contention for members of the profession, as well as much of the wider population. Must we merely accept the fact that dentistry is regarded on the same level as aesthetics and cosmetic surgery, and its exclusion from health insurance is an inevitable reality? Should we just blame this on government ignorance and neglect, simply because dentistry has been historically sidelined in matters of health insurance?

Current discussions surrounding Moon Jae-in Care push for changes to the overarching framework. This is not something that can be achieved in a year or two. Thus, there is still time to act; albeit not for long. The field of dentistry, particularly the academic division, must devote resources to establishing scientific grounds for expanding dental benefits. Dentistry cannot endure another 40 years of being overlooked by the health insurance service and public healthcare system.

December 2017