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Korea’s state health insurer to sue tobacco firms over disease costs

| April 14, 2014

South Korea’s state health insurer said today it was going to court to seek an initial KRW53.7 billion ($51.9 million) from KT&G and the local units of Philip Morris and British American Tobacco to offset treatment costs for diseases linked to tobacco smoking, according to stories by Reuters and Arirang TV & Radio.

“We believe the NHIS [National Health Insurance Service], as it takes responsibility for the health of the public and oversees the insurance budget, has a natural duty to bring this tobacco lawsuit,” NHIS lawyer An Sun-young told reporters.

The damages sought were based on data about payments by state insurers for patients with three types of cancer associated with smoking, the NHIS added.

According to a story in the Korea Times at the end of January, the NHIS had decided to file a damages suit against KT&G and other tobacco companies seeking up to KRW333 billion. The decision was said to have been made to go ahead with the claim despite the fact that the Ministry of Health and Welfare opposed the suit.

But in late March, a story in The Korea Economic Daily said the NHIS was poised to launch its suit, but it mentioned only KT&G, not other tobacco companies, and the amount of compensation to be claimed was still to be determined—somewhere between KRW53.7 billion and KRW230.2 billion.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Strategy & Finance has expressed doubts about the litigation. “Although fully in agreement with the principle, the National Health Insurance Service will have a hard time to prove criminal intent on the part of the tobacco company,” the ministry was quoted as saying.

Category: Breaking News

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