My magical card, which was issued to "Cather," along with a somewhat explanatory note written by my doctor.
Sometimes, living in Korea is like a puzzle. I receive one piece after another, until I'm finally able to understand something.
At my 36 week appointment, my doctor gave me a "prescription." It was a form that he had signed, which he told me I should take to the bank. He explained that the bank would give me a card I could use to pay for prenatal appointments. The total value of the card is W200,000 and W40,000 can be used towards each appointment. He wrote down a few things in Korean and told me to ask a Korean friend about it.
I asked one of Matthew's co-workers, the same woman who graciously translated my birth plan. She hadn't heard of the program, but translated the form for me, then did an internet search and got back to me with what she'd found. Her understanding was that it was only good for prenatal care. As I'd assumed, it's another government-funded program to help raise the very low birth rate. Also, she told me that it would take a week after I turned in my form for the card to be issued.
I took the form to NongHyup bank where we have our accounts. The teller who always helps me placed a phone call, since no one there seemed to know anything about it. She told me I needed to go to Kookmin Bank (KB) downtown. The KB teller seemed familiar with the program and told me I needed to open an account there to have a card issued. After filling out multiple forms, she said my card would arrive in one week. Later that afternoon, she called to tell me that she forgot to have me sign a form and needed me to come back in. I took care of that two days later. My card arrived the very next day via courier.
In the meantime, I visited my pregnant Korean friend. She already had her card, even though her due date was two weeks after mine. This irritated me, because we have the same doctor AND he had given me the form at the same appointment when he'd run several (relatively) expensive, and in my opinion unnecessary, tests. I figured that he'd forgotten to give it to me when he was supposed to and cost me an extra W40,000. My friend did say that the card could be used for 15 days after giving birth. She planned to swipe her card each day at the hospital until it was used up.
I was able to use W20,000 for my 38 week appointment the week before Christmas, then had Matthew swipe the card the two days I was in the hospital, which took W80,000 off my bill (bringing the total bill to about $200). I also used it for my one-week postpartum appointment, but that was less than W3,000. It was at that last appointment that I noticed a poster on the wall. I recognized my lovely pink card and saw the date at the top: December 15, 2008. It's a brand new program, which explains why the doctor didn't give it to me earlier.