Government leaders appear to be flip-flopping on their views of the unpopular health insurance system for people aged 75 or over. People have difficulty discerning leaders’ true intentions. Unless clear explanations follow soon, the views may be taken as a ruse to soothe voters ahead of a Lower House election.

On Sept. 20, while the campaign for the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election was going on, health and welfare minister Yoichi Masuzoe proposed on a TV program that the health insurance system be replaced by a new system that does not place elderly people in a special category. He said that, unlike at present, the new system should not withhold premiums from pensions at the source. Moreover, efforts would be made to prevent financial conflicts between the generations.

The next day, Mr. Taro Aso, then a candidate in the LDP race, on TV programs, called for a drastic review of the system, mentioning the main points presented by Mr. Masuzoe. But in his Sept. 29 policy speech as prime minister, Mr. Aso said he would consider a necessary review of the system with a one-year deadline, backing off from the “drastic review” suggested during the campaign. He added that the problems would not be solved simply by abolishing the present system and that a new system must be designed acceptable to elderly people.

The health insurance system for people aged 75 or over started in April. Many participants in the plan hate its name — medical services system for later-stage elderly people — and feel discriminated against. Some complain against the withholding of premiums from their pensions at the source. Others take issue with the fact that elderly people who used to be beneficiaries of health insurance systems participated in by their children must move to the new system and start paying premiums.

The Democratic Party of Japan proposes eventually unifying different health insurance systems into one. Both the ruling and opposition forces should flesh out their proposals and make the health insurance system for elderly people an issue in the coming Lower House election.

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