The government formally announced a set of measures Friday aimed at reducing the financial burden on people under a planned public nursing care system to be launched in April.

However, the Liberal Party — one of three parties in the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito — failed to immediately endorse the measures.

The latest sign of discontent, coming after days of negotiations on nursing care, revealed yet another rift in the coalition.

“There are big differences among the three parties over how to finance (the public-care system). It’s impossible to give replies that can satisfy all (parties),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said at a press conference to announce the government’s plan.

The three parties proposed an outline Oct. 29 of measures to reduce the financial burden for the insured, and the government has been discussing the details ever since.

Under the government’s plan, the collection of premiums from people aged 65 and over will be frozen for six months after the system takes effect in April.

The premiums will be halved for another year after the moratorium ends. The measures will cost the state government a total of 785 billion yen, the government said.

The plan was approved by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi after Health and Welfare Minister Yuya Niwa, Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki and Vice Home Affairs Minister Kozo Hirabayashi finalized it during discussions at Obuchi’s official residence early Friday afternoon.

Policy chiefs from the three parties held parallel talks at the Diet to discuss their parties’ positions.

But later in the day, Liberal Party officials did not appear at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence as expected when the government was to explain its response to the three parties’ proposals for the public-care system.

The Liberal Party has staunchly argued that the services should be financed by the consumption tax, not by an insurance system designed by the government.

“The negotiations will begin now,” said Hirohisa Fujii, Liberal Party policy chief, indicating his intention to continue policy talks on how to finance the system.

LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei said that the LDP and New Komeito basically accepted the government’s response to their plan.

Kamei told a press conference Friday night that he tried many times to contact Fujii.

“I have no idea (what happened to the Liberal Party). We are just bewildered,” Kamei said.

According to the announced government plan for people aged between 40 and 64, the government will support medical unions they belong to so that their financial burdens will not increase. It will cost the government an estimated 126 billion yen.

Starting in fiscal 2001, the central government will also give families taking care of the elderly at home a cash allowance of 100,000 yen a year, as well as necessary goods such as diapers worth up to about 100,000 yen.

For low-income senior citizens who hope to use the public services, the plan proposes to reduce to 3 percent from 10 percent a service fee they will have to pay. The cut would last three years.

According to the Health and Welfare Ministry, the projected size of the temporary measures will be 1.15 trillion yen, with 1.01 trillion yen paid by the central government.

The government plans to allocate the necessary funds in a second supplementary budget for this fiscal year.

For fiscal 2000, the measures will cost another 120 billion yen, 60 billion yen of which will be financed by the central government.

All of the government’s burdens are expected to be financed by bond issues.

As for how to finance the system after the moratorium ends, the government’s plan only said that it will “take appropriate measures based on results of discussions among the three parties.”

The parties have agreed to discuss how to finance the system after the system is launched in April.

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