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2014 May 14 - 20 [WELFARE]

Bills stripping the elderly of access to necessary care rammed through Lower House

May 15 & 16, 2014
The House of Representatives at its plenary session on May 15 rammed through a package of bills cutting medical- and nursing-care services by the majority vote of the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komei parties while all opposition parties voted against the package.

Although 19 related laws are to be revised all at once and 210 local municipal assemblies throughout Japan are expressing concern about or criticism against adversely revising the related-care programs, the Lower House committee discussed the package only six times for less than 30 hours in total prior to the vote.

Under the omnibus bill, elderly persons in need of personal care will be excluded from insurance-covered homecare and daycare services, special nursing-care homes will accept only persons in need of a high level of nursing-care, persons who have a designated amount of income will have to shoulder a burden of 20% for insurance-covered nursing-care services, and the number of beds in hospitals will be reduced which will lead to the discharge of many elderly inpatients.

Japanese Communist Party representative Takahashi Chizuko took the rostrum in opposition to the bill that will affect the 19 laws and criticized it as forcing many elderly people from affordable access to necessary medical- and nursing-care services.

Takahashi pointed out that cuts in the number of hospital beds will force even severe case patients to leave and will make them receive care at home or at nursing homes. Stating that this will turn many elderly people into “care refugees”, she demanded that the package bill be scrapped as it negates the principle of Article 25 of the Constitution.

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On the previous day, in the thick of the deliberation at a Health and Welfare Committee meeting with many observers in the gallery, the LDP suddenly proposed the termination of discussions. Amid protesting shouts by opposition lawmakers present, Committee Chair Goto Shigeyuki (LDP) forcibly proceeded with the vote. The bill ended up being approved with the majority vote of the ruling parties.

JCP Takahashi, during the question session, showed Prime Minister Abe a case in which an elderly patient in Hokkaido was sent home only two days after he was hospitalized and forced to live alone in his freezing cold house. She criticized the bill as making even critically ill patients restricted to in-home care.

She told Abe to meet the needs of elderly persons who call for public care programs to be maintained.
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