The government has tabled a bill in the Diet that would increase the health care costs paid by elderly people in an attempt to contain the state’s ballooning expenses for maintaining coverage.
In a measure designed to reform the medical insurance system, outpatients aged 70 and over would be required to cover 10 percent of their medical costs up to 5,000 yen per month. Under current laws, their medical payments cannot exceed 2,120 yen per month.
The government hopes the bill will pass the Diet and go into force on Jan. 1.
The government had proposed a similar bill to the previous regular Diet session earlier this year, but it was scrapped without even being debated.
The 5,000 yen limit would apply to large hospitals with at least 200 beds, while 3,000 yen would be the maximum for smaller hospitals.
The monthly limit on payments for hospital care costs by inpatients 70 or above would be 37,200 yen, as they would be required to pay 10 percent.
Currently, they are only required to pay 1,200 yen a day for hospital treatment.
The upper limits of medical expenses paid by patients under 70 who receive expensive treatments would also be raised — from 63,600 yen per case to 121,800 yen.
The hikes are intended to compensate for the bill’s abolition of elderly people’s share of medicine costs, as well as a rise in doctors’ pay by the medical insurance system, which has already been approved.
The opposition bloc opposed the proposed cost increases, but the measure is expected to clear the Diet by the end of the year due to the ruling camp’s control of the house.
Naoto Kan, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, said the bill is problematic as it will not address the present financial strains on the medical insurance system and will raise the financial burden on older patients, adding that the government has failed to make serious efforts to drastically reform the system.
The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party also voiced opposition to the higher costs in the bill.
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