Concerns are rising over technological challenges potentially hindering a government plan to require patients to present their ID cards at hospitals to verify their identity.

While the scheme aims to prevent individuals ineligible for national health insurance benefits from accessing them by using another person’s ID, some system errors and loopholes have been identified. Health authorities have pledged to address those issues promptly.

Starting Monday, patients are required to present at hospitals either their ID cards bearing a photo or their health insurance cards stored on mobile phones. Hospital staff are then tasked with verifying their eligibility for health insurance benefits using those IDs.

Previously, patients could receive medical services under the national health insurance system by simply providing their resident registration number at hospitals.

IDs that can be used as identification at hospitals include a resident registration card, a driver’s license, a certificate of alien registration and a mobile health insurance card, which can be easily downloaded through the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) app, a process that requires mobile verification.

However, there’s a loophole where individuals can fraudulently download and possess another person’s mobile health insurance card to illicitly obtain state benefits. Additionally, it poses a challenge for hospital staff to verify if the holder of the mobile card is indeed the health insurance beneficiary, as the card lacks a photo unlike other identification methods.

In response, the government has announced plans to update the NHIS app within a month to prevent the misuse of the mobile card. Authorities intend to reduce the duration of time the mobile account remains logged in, thereby mitigating potential abuses of the system.

However, due to budget constraints, adding a photo of the ID holder to the mobile national health insurance card is not feasible, the government stated.

Another issue arises with the new Republic of Korea passport, introduced in 2022 with a blue cover. It lacks the last seven digits of the holder’s resident registration number, rendering it unsuitable for identification purposes. Those passports can only be utilized at hospitals alongside a separate passport information certificate.

According to the NHIS, an average of 35,000 cases of illegal use of other people’s names and resident registration numbers were detected annually over the past five years. The state agency suspects that the actual number could be significantly higher.

Both individuals who use another person’s ID for health insurance and those who allow their own to be used by others are liable to fines of up to 20 million won ($14,766) or imprisonment for up to two years. Hospitals failing to confirm a patient’s identity may also face fines of 1 million won.


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