The three ruling coalition parties agreed in principle on Monday to temporarily freeze collection of premiums for a planned public-care insurance system for the elderly, to be launched in April, party officials said.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and New Komeito also agreed not to revise the law concerning the public-care system, meaning that any “freeze” on collection of the premium will last less than one year, according to the party officials.

The suspension has been a focus of policy talks as the ruling parties are already looking toward a Lower House election to be held by October next year. The three parties will further negotiate how long the suspension will last.

The parties also agreed to grant allowances to families who are caring for elderly family members at home and who do not make use of public services.

Some politicians, most notably LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei, have called for the introduction of rebates to the insurance system to encourage care for family members at home.

But that may undermine the basic concept of the public-care system, which was originally designed to increase social services to reduce the number of families tied up at home looking after elderly relatives, observers said.

In Monday’s meeting, the three parties failed to decide how to finance the public-care system.

The Liberal Party has maintained that funding should come from consumption tax proceeds, while the LDP favors financing the scheme through the insurance scheme, as planned by the health ministry.

New Komeito policy chief Chikara Sakaguchi told reporters that the system should be launched in April, as is planned now, but that it should be “thoroughly reviewed” during the period in which premiums are suspended.

The Health and Welfare Ministry has strongly opposed any legal revisions to the legislation, saying it would confuse municipalities that have prepared for the launch of the system — only six months away.

The working team is expected to finish its last-
minute review by Friday, when an extraordinary session of the Diet is scheduled to commence.

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