Elderly South Koreans' medical spending covered by the state health insurance program exceeded the 30-trillion-won ($25.9 billion) mark to reach a record high in 2018, data showed Wednesday.
Medical expenses for people aged 65 and older came to an all-time high of 31.8 trillion won last year, according to the data by the National Health Insurance Service.
The figure was up 12.4 percent from the previous year and 2.1 times from 2011. It took up 40.8 percent of last year's total medical spending of 77.9 trillion won, which was up 10.1 percent from a year earlier.
Last year's increase was attributed mainly to the government's policy to provide greater coverage for low-income people and to cover more illnesses. The country's rapid population aging was also a factor.
According to the data, the number of seniors covered by the insurance scheme stood at 7.09 million, accounting for 13.9 percent of all covered people.
The state health insurance operator spent an average 4.57 million won for every elderly citizen last year, compared with 4.26 million won in 2017.
Medical spending for elderly people covered by the NHIS has been on a rapid rise in tandem with South Korea's fast population aging.
The NHIS spent 28.3 trillion won for medical spending for the elderly people in 2017, compared with 25.2 trillion won in 2016 and 22.2 trillion won in 2015.
South Korea became an aged society in 2017, with the ratio of people aged 65 or older hitting 14 percent of its population of 50 million. The portion is predicted to hit 20 percent in 2026. (Yonhap)