After a four-month recess, the Upper House Health and Welfare Committee resumed deliberations Oct. 21 on three bills for forming a public nursing-care insurance system.Although the bills passed the Lower House in late May, the Upper House did not have sufficient time to discuss them. The last Diet session ended in mid-June.On Oct. 21, six experts in the field were summoned to comment on the government’s plan for nursing-care insurance. The system is intended to augment nursing care for the elderly and households taking care of them.Shuhei Ito, an associate professor at Hosei University, spoke against the proposed system, saying it is evident many policyholders will be refused care because of the shortage in care workers and facilities. He also warned that the bills, drafted by the Health and Welfare Ministry, would lead to excessive power in the hands of ministry bureaucrats connected with the proposed scheme, including calculation of the monthly premium. One bill says the premium can be decided without Diet approval.Under the program, all people aged 40 and over would have to contribute. The ministry has estimated that the monthly payment per policyholder in fiscal 2000 would be 2,500 yen on average. Rises in the monthly payment would sustain the program as the society grays further. The beneficiaries would be people aged 65 and over, as well as those between 40 and 64 suffering from disorders related to aging. If enacted, a wide range of care services would be made available at public care facilities and to households with an ailing elderly member, beginning in fiscal 2000.However, according to Shozo Ikeda, secretary general of the 10,000 Citizens’ Committee to Realize a Public Elder-Care System, based in Tokyo, the system should be created even if it has some defects, because the need for social support is imminent as the nation grays at an unprecedented pace.

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