National health insurer threatens to sue tobacco companies over health costs

| September 3, 2013

South Korea’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) seems to be preparing to file lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers to seek compensation for the cost of treating smoking-related diseases, according to a story in The Korea Herald.

NHIS President Kim Jong-dae told a seminar last week that his organization had secured clinical data that proved the ill effects of smoking on people’s health.

At the seminar, the NHIS unveiled the findings of clinical research its team had conducted for the past 20 years.

For example, the team kept track of about 1.3 million people who had medical checkups between 1992 and 1995.

The data from this study showed that, among men, smokers had a 6.5 times higher risk than did nonsmokers of developing laryngeal cancer. The risk was 4.6 times higher for lung cancer and 3.6 times higher for esophageal cancer.

Among women, the chances of smokers getting laryngeal cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer were 5.5, 4.6 and 2.9 times higher, respectively, than was the case for nonsmokers.

The team found also that, among men, smoking was the main cause in 79 percent of the laryngeal cancer cases, 71 percent of lung cancer cases and 64 percent of esophageal cancer cases.

Kim said the data would enable the NHIS to take a number of measures, including suing tobacco companies to compensate for the financial losses it had suffered due to smoking.

The NHIS says the medical cost of treating smoking-related diseases was KRW1.7 trillion in 2011, accounting for 3.7 percent of the KRW46 trillion the NHIS paid in insurance benefits.

Category: Breaking News

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