Care system survives first day

Ministry reports little difficulty for new insurance plan

A new state-run nursing-care insurance system aimed at dealing with Japan’s rapidly aging population completed its first day of operation Saturday with Health and Welfare Ministry officials reporting no hitches in the system’s administration.

On a day when government offices are normally closed, about 20 civil servants manned telephones at the ministry to deal with inquiries from the public, local governments and care providers. A total of 43 cases were handled.

“There was no particular trouble,” a ministry official said.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi visited a nursing-care center for the elderly in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward to mark the system’s launch.

Under the new framework, people age 40 and over are obligated to pay a monthly premium, which will be used to cover 90 percent of the cost of care services for elderly citizen’s recognized as needing such help. The remaining 10 percent will have to be shouldered by the elderly themselves.

The plan effectively brings such care, which has traditionally been provided as welfare, under an insurance-style scheme. From now on, it will be the elderly who decide under their own responsibility what services they want.

Some 2.7 million people are expected to use the insurance in fiscal 2000, which began Saturday, government officials said.

Obuchi, flanked by Health and Welfare Minister Yuya Niwa, talked with the facility’s care managers, who are responsible for drawing up programs for service recipients and indicating the type and amount of care required by each individual.

Obuchi also met with home helpers and the families of the elderly receiving the nursing-care services.

He later told reporters that he was touched by the great difficulties involved in making the transition from the old system to the new insurance scheme.

The Yamabuki-no-sato nursing-care center operates a residential nursing home for the elderly and an office from which helpers are dispatched.

Obuchi and Niwa later visited the nursing home and a facility that provides care for outpatients.

‘Gin-san’ applies

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Gin Kanie, the surviving sister of the popular centenarian twin celebrities, has applied for nursing-care services offered under a new public nursing-care insurance system for the elderly launched Saturday, her family said.

The family of the 107-year-old woman widely known in Japan as “Gin-san” said they had filed an application with the Nagoya Minami Ward Office on Tuesday, reporting that Kanie requires nursing care and a home helper.

Kanie uses a wheelchair because her legs have become weak.

Her daughter, Mineyo, 76, prepares meals for Kanie, while a home helper bathes Kanie twice a week, according to the family.

Municipal officials specializing in nursing care will visit Kanie at her home to determine whether she is eligible to receive nursing-care services.

The family said the Nagoya Municipal Government told them that Kanie, if eligible, would not be able to receive such services until May because they are behind schedule. They explained it would take time for “care managers” to draw up programs for each service recipient and determine the type and amount of care required.

Kanie was born in 1892. Her twin sister, Kin Narita, died in January.

Kin-san and Gin-san appeared on numerous television shows and in commercials after they turned 99 in 1991.

The twins made the Guinness Book of Records in 1999.