Korean hospitals are competing for dialysis patients, often offering free meals, transportation to and from the hospital, and even living expenses in an effort to capture government subsidies. The Korean government pays 90 percent of all dialysis costs, an average of $1,500 per dialysis patient per month, from a total treatment bill of $1,670 per month.
Hospitals are so eager to win new patients that they sometimes — illegally — subsidize the other 10 percent of their patients’ bills, in addition to tempting them with other perks. Since 2008, the number of clinics and hospitals offering dialysis treatment in Korea has increased by 25 percent.
But of the 690 hospitals and clinics that offered dialysis services in 2013, more than 20 percent had no dialysis specialists on staff, according to a survey by Korea’s Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA). This has led to complications for patients, including renal failure and death. Both HIRA and Korean Society of Nephrology have suggested incentives for hospitals that abide by the law and deliver high-quality medical treatment. But so far none of the 84 hospitals that HIRA ranked as “poor” in their dialysis survey have been penalized.
Korea is home to more than 40,000 people suffering from end stage renal failure, a population that requires dialysis three times a week in order to survive.