Powerful medical association faces town doctors' refusal of political donations to LDP

As July's House of Councilors election approaches, one of the Liberal Democratic Party's most influential support groups is in trouble.

Members of the Japan Medical League, the Japan Medical Association's political arm, are beginning to speak up against compulsory donations to the LDP.

The Medical League has requested practicing doctors throughout Japan to pay 10,000 yen each as "extra dues" for funding LDP candidates election campaigns. Many doctors, however, are reluctant to pay such "compulsory donations."

In Hiroshima Prefecture, about 30 percent (780 members) have rejected the payment of extra dues and 50 members have withdrawn from the local Medical League. The Hiroshima Medical Association has received many letters from presidents of local Medical Associations and Medical Leagues as well as medical practitioners expressing opposition to the deduction of the "extra dues."

The Medical Association had to promise that those who leave the association or refuse to pay the "fee" will not be punished or reprimended.

A town doctor said, "When I opened my clinic 15 years ago and joined the Medical Association, my name was put on the Medical League's membership list. I protested about it and they did not ask me to pay the membership fee. But recently I received a letter asking me to pay extra Medical League dues. I learned from the KSD scandal that the Medical Association is also used (by the LDP)."

He was referring to the scandal in which insurance premiums collected from small- and medium sized businesses were misused as political donations to the LDP.

A local Medical Association president said, "Town physicians are having a hard time running their clinics due to the adverse revisions of the medical insurance system under the LDP government. The Medical Association should stop supporting the LDP."

A prefectural Medical League executive said, "In the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima, the peace movement and international exchanges are very active among the people irrespective of political affiliation. The Medical Association is made up of all tendencies, ranging from pro-LDP to pro-Japanese Communist Party, but all members are forced to support only the LDP. Such compulsion must be ended. To begin with, the party which has the most similar policy to ours is the JCP."

In Tokyo, about 70 percent of the Medical Association members said that they don't want to pay the 10,000 yen in extra dues. The association had to reduce the amount to 5,000 yen.

A practicing doctor in Shibuya Ward has resigned from the Medical League, saying, "Prime Minister Koizumi adversely changed the medical insurance system when he was health and welfare minister. Now as the prime minister, he plans to ask the people to pay a larger share of the medical cost. I don't want to support the LDP anymore."

Japan Medical Association members are automatically listed as members of its political action group, the Japan Medical League. About 75,000 members (50 percent) are LDP members. The Medical League donated 270 million yen to the LDP in 1999. Donation recipients include Koizumi Jun'ichiro, now prime minister, who received six million yen in 1998 and 10 million yen in 1999.

On June 17, the Japan Medical League held a fundraiser, attended by about 1,500 people. According to a newspaper report, the Japan Medical League has so far collected 430 million yen as extra dues in preparation for the House of Councilors election. The organization's secretariat declined to answer any questions by Akahata on the issue. (end)