The Yomiuri Shimbun July 11, 2013
Don’t shirk discussions on raising the elderly’s social security burden
１３参院選 社会保障 負担増の論議は避けられない（7月10日付・読売社説）
Amid a chronically low birthrate and rapidly aging population, Japan’s spending on social security, including pensions, medical care and nursing care, has been continuously increasing.
How can a sustainable social security system be built? This is an important issue in the upcoming House of Councillors election.
The Liberal Democratic Party has unveiled policies to promote wider use of cheap generic drugs and prevent people from receiving treatment at more than one medical institution for the same disease or sickness. These policies show the LDP has a sense of urgency on this issue.
However, a glance at the campaign pledges of the political parties, including the LDP, reveals that they are hesitant to ask the public to pay more for their social security system.
Elderly should pay more
For example, increasing the proportion of medical expenses that elderly people must pay out of their own pocket is one issue that needs to be addressed.
The Health Insurance Law and others stipulate that people aged 70 to 74 must pay 20 percent of their medical expenses when they are treated at a hospital. Despite this, government administrations since 2008 have capped this figure at 10 percent as a special measure, apparently for fear of sparking a backlash from the elderly if they increase it.
We think this figure should be raised to 20 percent, as set by law, to curtail public spending.
However, the LDP, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan do not mention this issue in their election pledges. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose raising this figure.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura expressed his intention to review the special measure at a press conference Tuesday, but he did not set any time frame for abolishing it.
How can snowballing medical spending be rolled back? How can financial resources to fund the medical care system be secured? We urge all parties to deepen discussions on these matters.
It is utterly irresponsible of the DPJ, the JCP and the SDP to insist on raising medical fees, which will inflate government spending on medical care, without explaining where the money to cover the cost will come from.
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has proposed benefits for the elderly be reduced to more reasonable levels. The proportion of medical bills people are required to pay at hospitals differs between age groups. Ishin no Kai has proposed that this proportion be set at a uniform rate, so people shoulder medical expenses commensurate with their income.
Ishin no Kai also calls for raising the eligibility age for pension benefits. These issues deserve to be discussed in detail.
Measures to deal with the low birthrate also are important.
Help people have kids
The number of births in Japan fell to a record low of 1.037 million last year. A relentless decline in the number of people in the working generation that supports the elderly will imperil the very foundation of the nation’s social security system.
It is essential to create an environment in which more people can raise their children while continuing their careers. Amid public calls for eliminating the waiting lists for licensed day care centers, political parties are in step when it comes to improving child care services.
The LDP touted that it will ensure child care facilities are capable of accepting 400,000 more children by the end of fiscal 2017. However, many problems need to be solved before this target can be achieved, including how to cooperate with local governments on this matter. The LDP must present specific steps for reaching this goal.
The nation’s budget for measures to deal with the low birthrate is small compared with those of the United States and European countries. It is necessary to correct the current social security benefit setup, which is generous for the elderly, but relatively light for working and child-raising generations.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2013)