As of July 2019, all foreigners residing in Korea longer than 6 months are required to sign up for the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) program.
While foreigners whose visas are sponsored shouldn’t have to worry about enrolling, self-employed (freelancers on F visas or Korean citizens living abroad) should pay at least 114,000 won ($94 USD) a month. If you’ve been in Korea 6 months or more, you can figure out below if you need to and how to register for Korean National Health Insurance.
Visas who are required to have Korean National Health Insurance
All residents (non-tourist visa), and Korean citizens living abroad are required to be enrolled in the National Health Insurance System after 6 months of reporting residence in Korea. Tourists cannot register for health insurance. Currently, students (D2, D4) are also required to apply and can apply for insurance through their universities. This grace period is expected to end starting in March 2021. If you have foreign health insurance, you may submit a waiver to be exempted from mandatory enrollment.
What is covered and what is not covered in National Health Insurance?
Two major things to note that are not covered under NHIS are accidents/physical injuries, and MRIs. Also, where you receive treatment correlates with how much of a discount you get on services. If you want to immediately go to a large University hospital, expect to pay 100% of the bill. It’s best to visit your local clinic first. Often, staying overnight in a hospital gives you more of a discount than outpatient treatment as well. For more information, visit our article about the Korean healthcare system.
How to Apply/Register for the Korean National Health Insurance Service:
Through your company
Your monthly insurance contribution will be calculated based on your salary. Your employer and you should pay 3.23% of your monthly base salary for a total of 6.46%.
Your enrollment should be taken care of by your company. You will have to provide your ARC (Alien Registration Card). You do not need to visit the NHIS offices.
For non-public school EFL teachers, an easy way to test that you are registered legally by your company is to make sure you are enrolled in NHIS. Check your pay-stubs for a low tax amount (3.3% is the amount for independent contractors), and check your mail for your health insurance booklet. If you don’t receive one, check with your company and demand to be enrolled in the program.
This is for the H1, F2-F6, students and more. Here’s a simple outline of what needs to be done to enroll yourself as a freelancer/unemployed. Keep in mind that your case might be different than this guide.
- Visit one of the many NHIS (국민건강보험) offices around Korea.
- Ask to enroll in the 지역 건강보험 (Community Health Insurance).
- The clerk will use your ARC to pull up your information.
- They will ask if you are enrolling any dependents. If you are, any dependents should have the same address as you.
- You will be issued an insurance passbook on the spot. Hospitals can look up your information via your ARC, but your book is like a proof of insurance.
- You will be asked to prepay for at least one month, or retroactively pay based on the number of days that have passed since your 6 months residence in Korea. So if you apply 8 months after coming to Korea, you will have to retroactively pay 2 months.
- If you switch from employed insurance to self-employed/unemployed, there will be no retroactive pay. But be sure the visit the NHIS office ASAP.
- To pay your bill, you can set up an automatic transfer or pay a monthly bill that arrives via mail. All payments are due by the 10th of every month.
What to do when leaving Korea?
If you’re planning to leave Korea, whether for good or just for a while, you’ll likely want to suspend or terminate your enrollment in the health insurance system. For those leaving Korea for over 30 days, this happens automatically when you exit. When you return to Korea, you must wait 6 months before being able to enroll again.
If you don’t want to wait 6 months after returning to enroll again and have been enrolled in health insurance for a full year, you can register for 임의계속가입 (Continuation of Coverage). This is a continuation of your health insurance. You will pay the same amount as was being taken out of your paycheck, but you’re still required to send the money each month while you’re away. Make sure to enroll for this before leaving the country!
We plan to update this article as news changes, so if we missed some information or you have conflicting information, please let us know in the comments and make sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter for more updates about Korea!