150,000 intractable disease sufferers in Japan lose right to medical aid

JIJI

Some 150,000 sufferers of intractable diseases have lost their right to special subsidies for medical expenses, a health ministry survey showed Wednesday.

They were excluded from the subsidy program in line with a change carried out in January under the law on such diseases that took effect in 2015.

The ministry presented the survey results at a meeting of the intractable disease committee of the Health Sciences Council.

Under the law, the government expanded the types of diseases covered by the subsidies while excluding sufferers with mild symptoms from the program, except for those whose medical expenses are very high.

As a transitional measure, the government continued to provide subsidies to those who had been recipients before the law was enacted. The three-year measure expired at the end of last year.

The temporary measure covered some 727,000 patients, of whom 577,000, or 80 percent, have seen their eligibility maintained, according to the ministry.

Of those who became ineligible, 84,000 patients had their applications for the subsidies rejected, while 64,000 did not apply, the ministry said.

The ministry will take appropriate measures to help intractable diseases sufferers after examining the results of its ongoing investigation into those who lost the right to the subsidies, an official said.