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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 May 13 - 19  > Intractable disease patients express concern over revision of medical insurance system
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2015 May 13 - 19 [WELFARE]

Intractable disease patients express concern over revision of medical insurance system

May 15, 2015
Patients with intractable diseases are criticizing a proposed bill to revise the medical insurance system for imposing heavier financial burdens on them. The bill is now being discussed in the House of Councilors after passing the House of Representatives without sufficient discussion last month.

If the bill is enacted, patients will have to pay a fixed amount of money (5,000-10,000 yen) to visit major general hospitals without medical referral letters.

Hashimoto Hiroko of the Japan Fibromyalgia Support Association pointed out that people who developed fibromyalgia symptoms normally visit major hospitals 5.3 times on average before receiving a definitive diagnosis. She added that those people will have to choose either paying the fixed-fee for diagnosis or visiting their family doctors to obtain referrals each time in order to see doctors specialized in this disease.

Hashimoto also argued that this situation would discourage people from visiting hospitals and wait until symptoms worsen which would lead to an increase in government spending for the health insurance system.

In the bill, the government plans to increase the charge for hospital meals from the current 260 yen per meal to 460 yen. This would amount to an 18,000 yen a month.

Fujiwara Kanako, who is a nurse and a patient with multiple sclerosis, stressed that hospital food is a part of the treatment. She said that some patients have difficulties in chewing and swallowing food and that specially-made hospital meals are vital for them.

Fujiwara stated that intractable disease patients have to fight against their diseases for a long time as no effective treatment is currently available. She said that she hopes all intractable disease patients can receive medical treatment without facing the added stress of financial anxiety.
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