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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 December 9 - 15  > Suga gov’t imposes redoubled burden of medical payments on elderly amid coronavirus-crisis
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2020 December 9 - 15 [POLITICS]

Suga gov’t imposes redoubled burden of medical payments on elderly amid coronavirus-crisis

December 11 & 13, 2020

The Prime Minister Suga-led government on December 10 decided on a policy which forces the elderly aged 75 and over to shoulder a heavier burden for medical expenses. This policy, if implemented, will have a negative impact on about 3.7 million senior citizens.

Currently, among 18 million elderly people who are at least 75 years old, most pay 10% of their medical fees at hospitals. Under the new government policy, single elderly people who receive more than two million yen of pension benefits annually will be required to pay 20% of their medical costs.

PM Suga originally intended to increase out-of-pocket medical expenses of the elderly with annual income of more than 1.7 million yen from the current 10% to 20%. However, on December 9 at a meeting with Yamaguchi Natsuo of the ruling coalition partner Komei Party, PM Suga unexpectedly made an agreement under which the twofold increase will target those whose annual income is at least two million yen.

Regarding the reason behind this agreement, sources close to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party stated, “With the sharp drop in his approval rating, PM Suga might have no choice but to compromise because in order for him to stay in power, the cooperation of the Komei Party is vital.”

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on December 10 at a press conference in the Diet building expressed his determination to push the government to withdraw its policy to impose a doubling of the burden for medical fees on elderly people.

Shii pointed out that even under the current requirement to pay 10% of medical expenses, many elderly people are reluctant to see doctors due to financial concerns, which leads to many cases in which elderly people suffer from a worsening of their symptoms or even to their death due to a delay in seeking medical treatment. Shii said, “Together with fears of exposure to the coronavirus, more and more elderly people are hesitating to see doctors.” He added that determining how to protect elderly people’s lives and health has become a pressing task in Japan, and that it is unacceptable for the government to propose a policy which increases financial anxiety among senior citizens and leads to their not going to see doctors.

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