Regarding the Oct. 30 article, “Noda to declare Japan will join TPP at APEC,” while the Japanese government is planning to join the talks for the TPP negotiations, an increasing number of medical professionals express concern about whether people would be affected by medical insurance liberalization, which is said to be caused by the TPP agreement.
According to the Japan Medical Association (JMA), Japan’s participation in the TPP may cause the collapse of the country’s universal health care because such a trade deal would lead to “mixed treatment,” which might cause inequality in health care services. Mixed treatment would allow patients to receive medical services covered by the public health insurance as well as those that are not covered.
The JMA also says that the TPP will encourage joint-stock companies to run hospitals, and their entry might lead to 1) biased selection of patients; 2) an increased burden on the patients’ share of medical expenses; 3) a lowering of patients’ safety because of excessive cost-cutting; 4) withdrawal from such areas as emergency departments, where profits cannot be expected.
Universal health care should be regarded as Japan’s precious treasure. While Japan marks the 50th anniversary of its universal health care, the system is on the verge of collapse because of a rapidly aging population and an increasing public debt burden. The Japanese government, however, is planning to raise taxes and insurance premiums, and even introduce extra payment for access to hospitals.
As the world’s fastest graying country, Japan’s role is to set an example of sustainable health care system. As long as Japan participates in the TPP negotiations, it needs to confirm whether people could receive affordable and high-quality health care. The Japanese government should provide its citizens with a blueprint for the TPP to relieve their growing anxieties about public health.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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