Time, Administrative Processing, and Coverage
Since the NHIS enrollment from Korea is an option for students (and mandatory for those staying 6 months or longer), you might think you do not need any kind of travel insurance. Please, think again, however, about the reality of timing and administrative process.
Your enrollment information gets sent to the NHIS when you register for your ARC in Korea. While you have 90 days to do this after your entry, the start of the semesters is extremely busy for Immigration. Usually, it takes one to two months to get your ARC card/number. In extreme cases, it can take three to four (yes, this has happened).
Once Immigration sends your information to the NHIS, the NHIS will send you a notice that you are enrolled. A month later, you will then get a bill that you need to pay (you pay for insurance in advance the first and second month, and then just in month increments in advance of the month).
You do not need to be good at math to see a picture of how long it can take to get active coverage in the NHIS - two, three, and sometimes four months. If you do not have ANY insurance during this period, you will be 100% liable for all financial costs associated with medical care. While a minor doctor visit is likley okay, anything serious (e.g., breaking an ankle) will result in thounds of dollars of expenses.
For all practical purposes, you really need to have travel insurance to cover the exchange even if you plan on enrolling in the NHIS because it takes a long time to actually get enrolled, pay, and be covered. Moreover, the second you leave Korea, you no longer have NHIS coverage and anyting that happens in between leaving and returning to your home country will beyour responsibility.
1-6 months in Korea
Insurance from Abroad
If you are going to be staying in Korea for one to six months, you can apply for an exemption to NHIS insurance if you have private insurance purchased to cover your exchange period PRIOR to entering Korea.
There is an exception for short-term students (meaning exchange and visiting students) PROVIDED that you already possess health insurance coverage for your exchange period BEFORE entering Korea, and that is is the same or exceeds the standards of payment as the NHIS.
Your private insurance must be purchased outside of Korea and have no limitations on its coverage in South Korea. Coverage limit above KRW 1 billion is considered unlimited coverage by the NHIS.
If your insurance does not meet these two criteria, you will be required to pay the premiums for the NHIS starting from your enrollment. As mentioned above, this can take a long time.
Please be advised that even if you submit an application for exemption to the NHIC, it mat not be approved! You should budget money for having to pay the NHIC premium as a part of your exchange costs just in case! See the information below for how to apply.
While the NHIC's service is very convenient in Korea and fine for you to use, it is much more expensive than traditional student insurance or travel insurance for exchanges. You can choose which ever one you prefer but be aware of the significant price difference.
6 months + in Korea
National Health Insurance Corporation
If you are going to be staying in Korea for 6-12 months, you will need to subscribe to Korea's National Health Insurance.
You will be required to pay into the NHIS starting from month 6 unless you choose to do so starting at month 1.
Who can apply for exemption from the NHIS?
Students who hold private insurance that covers emergency and hospital bills abroad similar to the NHIS coverage (has to be from foreign corporation.), and you are staying in Korea for 6 months or less.
How can you apply for unsubscribing?
Fill out the form for Exclusion for Health Insurance for overseas Korean and foreigner.
Have the major parts that states your coverage of the insurance translated in Korean.
Visit the center for foreign residents and turn the papers in!
Center information: http://www.nhis.or.kr/english/wbheaa02100m01.do
Please be aware that you CANNOT apply for this exemption until you have registered with Immigration and have an ARC number.
International students can receive the same level of benefit as regular Korean citizens. The insurance service covers up to 80% of inpatient treatments and medical services. The service also covers 30 – 70% of outpatient treatments and medical services. In general, the covered amount gets deducted from your medical bill when you check out of the medical institution.
For more information, visit the NHIS website.
Medical Institution Type
20% of the total treatment cost
(cancer patients 5%, rare/incurable diseases patients 10%)
Higher-level General Hospital
60% of total treatment cost and other expenses
45 - 50% of total care benefit expenses
35 - 40% of total care benefit expenses
30% of total care benefit expenses
30% of total care benefit expenses