THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
December 10, 2020 at 18:39 JST
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, left, and Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, attend Komeito’s national convention in Tokyo on Sept. 27. (Takuya Isayama)
Health care fees will rise for people 75 or older who receive at least 2 million yen ($19,230) in their annual pension under a new plan agreed to by Japan’s governing coalition.
They would have to pay 20 percent of their medical fees, up from the current 10 percent, under the proposed social security system expected to start in 2022.
The fee hike is designed to reduce the burden on younger, working-age people as the baby boomer generation starts turning 75 in 2022.
The government estimates the move will ease younger people’s burdens by 88 billion yen. A revision bill is expected to land in the Diet next year to bring about the change.
The threshold of 2 million yen was clinched on Dec. 9, when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads Komeito, a junior coalition partner of Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party, to iron out their differences over the income figure.
The government had insisted people 75 or older who receive 1.7 million yen or more in their annual pension should pay 20 percent of their medical expenses. About 5.2 million people will be affected under this scenario.
Komeito proposed the threshold be raised to 2.4 million yen or more. Then only about 2 million elderly people would be asked to pay twice as much as they used to when they see a doctor.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare submitted five proposals to a ministry advisory panel, with the threshold ranging from 1.55 million yen to 2.4 million yen in annual pension payouts.
Of Japan’s current population of 126 million, about 18.15 million people are 75 or older.
They are obliged to pay 10 percent of their medical expenses, in principle.
But 1.3 million people among the 75 or older age group who earn at least 3.83 million yen annually are asked to pay 30 percent of their medical fees.
Japan’s health care costs total 16.6 trillion yen for people 75 or older. Of this, 50 percent is covered by taxes, while 40 percent is funded by health insurance associations. The remaining 10 percent tab is picked up by the patients themselves.
Working people shoulder about 63,000 yen to support the elderly, according to government data. But that figure is projected to increase to 79,000 yen in fiscal 2025.
Easing the burden of younger people supporting Japan’s aging population has been a pressing issue for the government. The administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had laid out a policy to raise the share to 20 percent for people whose income is at a certain level.
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