Dec. 21, 2017
The Ministry of Employment and Labor (Minister Kim Young-joo) has announced the fifth medium-term IACI rehabilitation service development plan (2018~2022) which includes raising awareness about rehabilitation, strengthening return-to-work support schemes and expanding rehabilitation infrastructure to ensure that workers injured in industrial accidents can receive proper treatment and make a smooth return to work and society.
The industrial accident compensation insurance (IACI) system has made some achievements, such as reducing the time taken for industrial accident victims to get back into society and raising the return-to-work rate, by strengthening specialized rehabilitation treatment for injured workers, helping them return to work and providing vocational training for them.
* Time taken to return to society (average period of medical care): 251.7 days in 2006 → 165.2 days in 2016 (34% shorter)
* Return-to-work rate: 45.5% in 2006 → 61.9% in 2016 (16.4%p increase)
However, 40% of workers injured in industrial accidents still have not returned to work, falling short of the levels in other advanced countries (70~80%). Among other things, the return-to-original-work rate has stood still recently.
* Return-to-work rate for workers injured in industrial accidents: 45.5% in 2006→ 49.4% in 2012→ 53.9% in 2014→ 61.9% in 2016
* Return-to-original-work rate for workers injured in industrial accidents: 30.3% in 2006 → 39.3% in 2012 → 42.6% in 2014→ 41.4% in 2016
In particular, industrial accident victims are complaining of financial hardships and psychological distress as they fail to return to work after the end of medical care, so measures to support them are urgently needed.
* Number of industrial accident victims earning 24 million won or less a year: 31,647 (42.3%, 2017 Employment Status Survey)
The fifth medium-term IACI rehabilitation service development plan which aims to help workers injured in industrial accidents return to work and society will be implemented in phases from 2018 to 2022. Its main contents are as follows.
First, the government will activate specialized rehabilitation treatment throughout the course of medical care - i.e. from its beginning until its end - to ensure that injured workers fully recover their physical function and are not left with disabilities.
The number of certified rehabilitation hospitals will be increased so that anyone can easily receive specialized rehabilitation treatment, and the process will be reformed so that injured workers can receive specialized rehabilitation treatment at certified rehabilitation hospitals through a special rehabilitation treatment program if they are expected to have a disability.
＊ Number of certified rehabilitation hospitals will be increased from 53 now to 150~200.
The number of items listed on the rehabilitation treatment fee schedule will be consistently expanded to enable certified rehabilitation hospitals to run specialized rehabilitation treatment programs tailored to the characteristics of industrial accident patients.
＊ More diverse specialized rehabilitation programs (brain/spiral cord injuries, burns, psychological and vocational rehabilitation, etc.) will be operated, and an insurance fee calculation system will be developed and applied to provide incentives for early rehabilitation (in 2018).
Each hospital run by the Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service (COMWEL) will operate an 'advanced outpatient rehabilitation center' to increase accessibility for injured workers and a 'psychological healing center' which provides psychological treatment for traumatized workers and workers engaged in emotional labor.
＊ Outpatient rehabilitation centers will give injured workers better access to rehabilitation treatment and provide various rehabilitation treatment services using high-tech facilities and equipment.
＊ Psychological healing centers will provide early psychological treatment for workers who experience a highly traumatic industrial accident, such as collapse, being caught in or between objects or amputation, or display severe psychological unrest in a psychological test.
High-tech assistive devices, such as bionic robots and prosthetic feet and hands, will be researched and developed through the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center to make greater use of advanced scientific technologies to help people with disabilities return to work. The program to provide developed work-related assistive devices to people with disabilities will be extended to those due to return to work.
＊ Currently, work-related assistive devices are mainly provided to disabled people who have returned to work. → Those due to return to work will be added to the list of eligible recipients.
＊ Research and development plan on high-tech assistive devices: AI-based robotics, prosthetic arms and legs, emotional/intelligent wheelchairs, wearable robots for paralyzed people (~2022)
Moreover, surveys on non-benefit medical care services will be conducted more often (every two years → every year) and based on their results, the coverage of medical care benefits will be extended to non-benefit services with a view to removing injured workers' out-of-pocket medical expenses. The government will also simplify the procedure for applying for individual examination-based medical care benefits (application by worker → application by hospital).
＊ Individual examination-based medical care benefits: Separate medical care benefits are paid, if deemed necessary for treatment, after individual examination.
Second, the government will impose an obligation on employers and reform return-to-work support schemes in order to strengthen support for injured workers' return to work.
Emloyers will be required to assess the physical function of injured workers during their treatment periods and to prepare and submit a return-to-work plan if an injured worker is found able to get back to his/her original job.
＊ A study will be conducted on how and when to assess injured workers' physical function, how to prepare a return-to-work plan, implementation or support measures, etc., in 2018.
In addition, as measures to support employers who employ people with occupational disabilities, the government will subsidize internships for people with occupational disabilities and exempt such employers from (or allow them to postpone) paying IACI premiums.
＊ A subsidy will be paid to employers who hire people with occupational disabilities as interns for at least three months.
＊ An exemption from payment of IACI premiums (or postponement) will be granted to employers who allow people with occupational disabilities to return to their original jobs or newly hire such disabled people.
The government will also expand the scope of disabled people for whom employers can receive return-to-work subsidies (return-to-work subsidies, workplace adaption training subsidies, rehabilitation exercise subsidies, subsidies for hiring substitute workers, etc.) and raise the amount of subsidy.
＊ (Target disabled people) people with grade 1~12 disabilities → people with grade 1~14 disabilities, (amount of subsidy) 300,000~600,000 → higher amount
And in an effort to improve vocational training, the government will expand the scope of people eligible to receive training, pay employment promotion allowances and introduce specialized vocational training courses taking account of disability, age, etc., thereby helping industrial accident victims and their families to become financially self-reliant and return to decent jobs.
＊ (People eligible for training) people with grade 1~12 disabilities → people with grade 1~14 disabilities, surviving family members and family members (of people with severe disabilities), those receiving outpatient medical care, etc
＊ (Employment promotion allowances) Employment promotion allowances are paid to people who get a job or qualification after completing training.
＊ (Specialized training courses) longer training period (currently less than one year), higher training expenses (currently less than 6 million won)
Third, the government will strengthen support for injured workers' healthy lives and social participation.
A social rehabilitation benefit program which subsidizes house and workplace remodeling costs, vehicle costs, etc., will be introduced to help people with severe occupational disabilities return to their families and society.
The government will also introduce a personal budget system that allows industrial accident victims to make the most of local community resources in a self-directed manner.
＊ Each patient, together with COMWEL, sets a plan within the limits of the budget available under the voucher scheme, etc.
In order to provide professional nursing care services to people with severe occupational disabilities who cannot be cared for at home, the government will come up with a way to subsidize the out-of-pocket expenses they have to pay when they use care facilities.
MOEL predicts that as a result of establishing and implementing the plan, the return-to-work rate for workers injured in industrial accidents will rise by 13.1%p from 61.9% in 2016 to 75.0% in 2022.
It also expects the return-to-original-work rate to increase from 41.4% in 2016 to 47.7% in 2022.
Employment and Labor Minister Kim Young-joo emphasized, "The role of industrial accident compensation insurance is not to simply compensate injured workers, but to help them receive proper treatment and quickly return to their jobs which are the basis of their livelihoods."
She said, "We will steadily carry out the fifth medium-term rehabilitation service development plan to realize a society where industrial accident victims can recover their health and make a smooth return to work with the help of industrial accident compensation insurance."