In an attempt to ease the financial strain of a rapidly aging society, a panel from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party released an interim report Thursday that calls for the establishment of an independent medical insurance system into which those aged 75 and older would have to contribute.

A final report that reflects the views of the three ruling parties and the government on medical system reform is to be drawn up in March.

However, the health ministry is said to be leaning toward leaving the independent insurance system proposal as an option, along with the idea of readjusting the financial burdens under the current system so premiums and benefits are based more on age.

The new system envisioned by the LDP panel would abolish the present medical insurance framework for the elderly. Instead, people aged 75 or older would be called on to help shoulder the cost.

At present, taxes cover 30 percent of the medical expenses incurred by the elderly, while the remaining 70 percent comes from medical insurance payments, such as by the health insurance unions whose premiums are paid mostly by companies and active members of the workforce.

The elderly are covered by the same medical insurance but in most cases are not required to pay premiums because their income levels are low.

Specifically, the panel suggested that premiums collected from elderly people cover 10 percent of the cost of the new system and that patients who fall into this age bracket pay 10 percent of their medical bills.

While money from the active age groups would still be used to financially support the new system in some way, the proposal would still amount to reducing their burden and increasing the amount shouldered by taxes and the elderly themselves, according to the panel.

However, the panel did not mention the issue of whether “a new public burden” — a phrase largely interpreted as meaning a hike in the consumption tax — would be needed to help finance the new system.

The medical expenses of the elderly are becoming a serious problem because the current system is shifting much of the financial burden on the younger generation, which itself is shrinking due to a falling birthrate.

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