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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 February 10 - 16  > Expensive public health insurance premiums endanger people’s lives
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2016 February 10 - 16 [WELFARE]

Expensive public health insurance premiums endanger people’s lives

February 14, 2016
Akahata editorial (excerpt)

A worrying number of people have difficulties in paying the premiums for public medical insurance. The Welfare Ministry’s latest survey shows that as of June 2015, 3.36 million households failed to pay premiums in the National Health Insurance which covers mainly self-employed and unemployed people, and 1.25 million had to forfeit their insurance cards. The survey also shows that regarding public health insurance for people aged 75 and older, 240,000 people were in arrears with their premium payments and 26,000 were without insurance cards. These people tend to hesitate to go to doctors until they become seriously ill, which sometimes results in fatalities. This tragic situation needs to be addressed without delay.

The reason why so many people cannot pay their public insurance premiums is that the premiums are too expensive. It is not rare that a self-employed household with four members and an annual income of 2.5 million yen is required to pay a premium of 400,000-500,000 yen a year. Obviously, this is an overly heavy financial burden for them to bear.

If people fail to pay public health premiums for a certain period of time, their insurance cards will be taken away by municipal governments and then they will be given short-term insurance cards which expire in one-six months. In some cases, they will receive qualification certificates and will be required to pay the whole amount of medical fees at hospitals which is often too expensive for those who cannot afford insurance premiums due to economic reasons. As a result, some of these people die as they put off obtaining medical services until it is too late.

It is an alarming fact that over 1.25 million households do not have proper health insurance cards, though the number is on decline as grass-roots public movements and Japanese Communist Party assembly persons are urging their local governments to be careful to not resort to confiscating the cards. The urgent need now is to fix this malfunction of the universal health insurance system which is designated to ensure that every person has access to medical services.

Municipal governments seized a record high of 280,000 properties, including bank savings, from people not able to pay health insurance premiums. Local authorities must not readily resort to applying this measure without investigating individual circumstances as it further deteriorates the financial situations being experienced by the already-struggling people.

Past related articles:
> 56 died due to being too late to see doctor because of poverty [May 8, 2015]
> Stop carelessly seizing bank accounts of people in arrears on public health insurance payments: JCP Koike [November 7, 2014]
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