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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 February 21 - 27  > Record number of households stripped of their health insurance cards due to failure to pay premiums
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2007 February 21 - 27 TOP3 [WELFARE]

Record number of households stripped of their health insurance cards due to failure to pay premiums

February 23, 2007
JCP Koike said, “The survey shows that Japan’s universal health insurance system has been seriously undermined. It is time for the government to take drastic measures to reduce the burdens of higher premiums.”

A Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry survey revealed that both the numbers of households that failed to pay national health insurance premiums and households whose health insurance cards were invalidated reached a record high last year, underlining the fact that poverty is increasing in Japan.

The survey results was released on February 22 to Japanese Communist Party Policy Commission Chair and House of Councilors member Koike Akira, who had repeatedly requested the ministry to conduct the survey and to release the findings to the public.

The number of households in arrears with the payment of national health insurance premiums was 4,805,582 (19 percent of all households that took out the insurance) as of June 1, 2006, an increase of 104,000 households from the year 2005.

The number of households that received insurance certificates because their health insurance cards were invalidated due to failure of payment for more than one year reached 351,270, an increase of about 32,000.

Patients with insurance certificates must pay at hospitals the full amount of medical costs, and later apply to municipal government offices for a refund of 70 percent of the payment. As a result, these patients tend to hesitate to see doctors, and in some cases they lose their lives.

Since the national health insurance law was adversely revised in 1984, the government has continued to reduce the state’s share of the burden for the program, and accordingly local municipalities have considerably increased the premiums.

In 1997, due to an adverse revision of the law supported by the Liberal Democratic, Democratic, and Social Democratic parties, municipal governments were required to invalidate health insurance cards and instead issue insurance certificates to deal with the growing number of households that failed to pay premiums.

Commenting on the survey results, Koike said, “The survey shows that Japan’s universal health insurance system has been seriously undermined. The main problem lies in the national health insurance premiums that are too expensive for many households to afford. It is time for the government to take drastic measures to reduce the burdens of higher premiums.”

The JCP on February 21 announced a set of proposals for recasting the draft FY 2007 budget, in which it calls for securing funds for necessary measures.

Koike said, “It is urgently needed to put an end to the policies of turning ‘inequalities in income’ into ‘inequalities in the right to life’.”

The national health insurance program covers self-employed business owners, part-time workers, and unemployed individuals.
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