Speech by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the opening of the high-level policy forum on health insurance governance

National Health Insurance Service, Seoul
4 April 2013

Honourable Health Minister Professor Nguyen Thi Kim Tien; Colleagues and friends:

It is a great pleasure to participate in this high-level policy forum on health insurance governance.

As you may know, health system development is a theme I have spent years working on.

Recently, Viet Nam has made great strides in health outcomes and health systems development. And the world carefully watches Viet Nam as a model for development.

In this way, the Government’s commitment to universal health coverage is a significant milestone that will hopefully influence others to take this life-saving step.

But the journey to universal health coverage is long. It requires a more sustainable, more efficient and more equitable health insurance system to be successful.

During this dynamic and trying development process, there are many challenges to be overcome and lessons to be learnt.

This was the case here in Korea as the country experienced rapid development that included a completely remade health financing system.

Korea's experiences not only provide examples of best practices — but also stories of failure and frustration. These lessons may be instructive for Viet Nam as the country maps out its future.

As we all know, sometimes knowing what NOT TO DO is as important as knowing what TO DO.

Health insurance is complex. The system involves multiple stakeholders and difficult tasks — from enrolment and payment mechanisms to benefits packages and management of income and expenditures.

Through all these steps, proper governance is essential for a well functioning system — which is why I am so pleased that this forum will focus on this important issue.

I was at the center of the evolvement of the Korean health financing system. Hopefully, my experience will be helpful for this discussion.

Thankfully, we have many of my old colleagues and friends from universities and government institutions here to provide their guidance and input at this forum.

In particular, I would like to express my appreciation to the Graduate School of Public Health of Seoul National University for a job well done in helping organize this forum.

As always, WHO stands ready and able to work with the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam at every stage of the process to achieve its health goals.

Thank you.