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Monday, Nov. 29, 2010


Financial pinch for nursing care

An estimate disclosed Nov. 19 by the health and welfare ministry says that the monthly premium for nursing care insurance paid by people aged 65 or over could go above ¥5,000 in the near future.

Specifically, the estimate says that the nationwide average premium may reach about ¥5,200 in fiscal 2012, a rise of 25 percent from the current ¥4,160, due to the ever-increasing number of nursing care service recipients, and the expansion and improvement of nursing care facilities. Every third year, the nursing care insurance system is reviewed. A revised system will start in fiscal 2012. At present, people start paying premiums for the insurance when they reach 40.

The ministry said in its written opinion submitted to its social welfare panel that raising the premium for people aged 65 or older above ¥5,000 without reviewing the content of services and the amount of out-of-pocket payments for such services is undesirable. It proposed increasing the out-of-pocket payments by high-income people from the current 10 percent to 20 percent — an attempt to help prevent the monthly premium from topping ¥5,000. It also said that opinions are divided over the idea of beefing up services for people with a high level of physical disability by reducing services such as home-cleaning and cooking assistance for people with a low level of physical difficulty.

When the system started in April 2000, 1.49 million people were receiving services. That number had risen to 3.84 million by April 2009. A rise in the total cost is inevitable. The current average monthly premium of ¥4,160 for people aged 65 or over is about 1.4 times the premium that prevailed from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2002. If the premium tops ¥5,000, an aged married couple will have to pay more than ¥10,000 a month — quite a burden for pensioners.

The government should help low-income people by using public money. Since a raise in the consumption tax is unlikely for the time being, it should consider either increasing premiums paid by younger generations or lowering the age at which people start paying premiums.

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