Over 60 percent disapprove Koizumi "medical insurance reform" -- NHK

An NHK opinion poll published on December 10 showed that 61 percent of
those surveyed disapprove of the Koizumi Cabinet's plan to increase the
insured salaried workers' payments of medical costs to 30 percent instead
of the present 20 percent.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, in 1998, about 2.8
million people between 25 and 64 year of age who had medical complaints, did
not visit hospitals.

The reason for their being discouraged to visit hospitals was very clear.
In 1997, when Koizumi Jun'ichiro was health and welfare minister, he made
salaried workers pay 20 percent of their medical costs, instead of the
previous 10 percent.

The government and the ruling parties are now proposing increasing
patients' share of medical costs from 20 to 30 percent, and even raise the
health insurance premiums.

It is predictable that more and more people will be discouraged from
visiting hospitals, until their health condition becomes acute.

The prime minister in parliament stated that a low financial hurdle will
tempt healthy people to visit hospitals. He tries to shift the blame of his
policy blunder onto people by describing them as being wrong to use the
medical services.

Akahata's editorial of December 11 criticized the prime minister's
statement as a clear indication of his callousness concerning people's
living conditions.

The editorial argues that the first thing a medical system "reform"
should do is to cut the prices for medicine which are much higher than in
the U.S. and Europe, and to shift some government money away from wasteful
public works projects to medical and other social services. Only by this way
will the critical condition of national finances on medical services be
resolved without having to shift increased burdens onto patients and the
people. (end)