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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 February 6 - 12  > Stop the new ‘medical-care system for the elderly’
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2008 February 6 - 12 [WELFARE]

Stop the new ‘medical-care system for the elderly’

February 4, 2008
Akahata editorial

In FY 2008, the government will implement its plan to adversely revise Japan’s medical-care system, including the reduction in long-term care beds from 380,000 to 150,000 by 2012, and the continuation of mergers, closings, and downsizing of public hospitals that was forcibly approved by the ruling parties in 2006.

Intense resentment among the public has been provoked in particular against a new discriminatory medical-care system for the elderly aged 75 or more that the Fukuda Cabinet is planning to implement in April.

Deceptive measure of partial freeze

The Fukuda Cabinet announced a temporary freeze on a small part of the heavier burden to be shifted onto the elderly, but the fact that the government had to work out such a makeshift measure demonstrates the failure of the new system.

About 500 local assemblies have adopted resolutions calling for cancellation or drastic revision of the new system. The Fukushima Prefectural Assembly stated that this system will inevitably bring about significantly adverse effects to the livelihoods and health of the elderly and that the assembly strongly hoped that a freeze will be imposed on the implementation of the new system. The Numata Town Assembly in Hokkaido stated that the introduction of a system which will threaten the livelihoods of the elderly is unacceptable. The Amami City Assembly in Kagoshima Prefecture stated that the partial freeze the government was considering is nothing but putting off finding a solution.

The government cannot avoid severe criticism by such a makeshift measure.

The freeze will be applied only to the elderly people who are currently covered by their family members’ health insurance as dependents. After the implementation of the new medical-care system, these elderly people will be charged no insurance premium for six months. Between October and March, 2009, the portion of the premium proportionate to their income will not be charged, and 10 percent of the per capita basis portion will be charged. In FY 2009, the proportionate portion will not be charged, and 50 percent of per capita basis portion will be charged. In the case of residents in Tokyo, the per capita basis portion will be 37,800 yen a month. So, they have to pay 3,780 yen a month from October and nearly 20,000 yen a month from April, 2009. The freeze will then be lifted after two years, and the burden of the elderly will sharply increase.

The freeze will not be applied to those who are covered by the National Health Insurance. Moreover, the government plans to continue to review and raise the premiums of all elderly people every two years.

But the adverse effect of the new system does not stop here.

The government will build a medical treatment remuneration system designed for the elderly and separated from that of other generations in order to limit the insured medical treatment so that the medical cost for the elderly will not rise. Despite the fact that increases in the number of people who cannot receive necessary nursing care or medical treatments have become a major social issue, the government is intending to kick out more elderly people from hospitals and the medical system.

When Japanese Communist Party House of Representatives member Takahashi Chizuko asked Health Minister Masuzoe Yoichi in the Diet whether the minister can assure the elderly people that they will not be forced to leave hospitals, Masuzoe avoided answering the question.

One more problem about the new system is that health insurance premiums on the elderly people will be deducted in advance from their pension benefits.

Those who receive pension benefits of more than 180,000 yen a year and will pay premiums into the new medical insurance and nursing care insurance that amount to less than half of the pension benefits will be subject to this measure.

Taking advantage of the introduction of this medical-care system for the elderly aged 75 or more, the government plans to deduct the National Health Insurance premium in advance from the pension benefits of the elderly people aged 65 and more.

Cancel implementation of the new system

Sixty percent of elderly households live solely on pension benefits. Among the elderly households with an annual income less than one million yen, the rate rises to nearly 80 percent. It is inhumane to deduct premiums in advance from pension benefits that barely support their livelihoods.

Among countries with universal health insurance systems, it is only Japan that has a discriminatory medical system for the elderly. We strongly demand that the government give up the implementation of the new system which discriminates people on the basis of their age.
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