The Liberal Democratic Party would like to get doctors and medical organizations, in principle, to prescribe generic drugs, instead of proprietary drugs, to people on welfare with their consent. Behind the idea is the hope of curbing the rising costs of livelihood assistance, known as seikatsu hogo, provided to low-income people. But as people receiving livelihood assistance could view the LDP’s policy as a form of discrimination, utmost care should be taken in pushing this policy forward.

The number of people receiving livelihood assistance has been rising due to the nation’s sluggish economy. In September, a record 2,133,905 people in 1,557,546 households were on welfare. The number of people has increased for five straight months, with a record reported each month. For the initial fiscal 2012 budget, some ¥3.7 trillion is to be spent on livelihood assistance. The cost for medical assistance accounts for about half the budget.

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