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Objectives: This study presents the case for a reciprocal health care agreement (RHCA) between Australia and South Korea.
Design and Setting: The research utilised a qualitative social scientific methodology. Document analysis was conducted on government reports, official statistics and media articles in English and Korean.
Main outcomes: In Australia, the Health Insurance Act 1973 enables health care agreements with 11 nations, however, Korea has no similar legislation in place. Therefore, Korea would need to build a broader consensus on the need for a RHCA in full, based on the precedent of Australia's agreements with other nations, as well as on the Korean Pension Act, which has enabled reciprocal (equal treatment among the countries) pension agreements with 28 nations through an exceptive clause.
Results: The active government commitment and involvement of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia, and of the Ministry of Health & Welfare and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in South Korea, would be essential for a successful RHCA process to come to fruition.
Conclusions: While a potential health care agreement between Australia and Korea would constitute a significant step forward in strengthening people-to-people links between these two significant trading partners in the spirit of health diplomacy, the feasibility at the current time is very low indeed.
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