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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 February 20 - 26  > JCP Kasai calls for ‘sunshine’ approach to reduce number of people in arrears in national health insurance premiums
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2019 February 20 - 26 [POLITICS]

JCP Kasai calls for ‘sunshine’ approach to reduce number of people in arrears in national health insurance premiums

February 21, 2019
Japanese Communist Party Dietmember Kasai Akira on February 20 at a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting brought up the issue of national health insurance premiums and said that the best way to eliminate the nonpayment of premiums is to lower the amount of premium payments required based on income.

Kasai cited the fact that more and more people suffer forcible seizures of their properties after failing to pay national health insurance premiums for various reasons such as unemployment and ill health. Compared to 2005 when the Welfare Ministry instructed municipal governments to tackle the issue of nonpayment of premiums, the number of households facing seizures and the amount of properties attached tripled to 336,000 generating 99.4 billion yen in 2016.

Kasai noted that JCP Upper House member Koike Akira in November 2014 demanded that the Welfare Ministry issue an official notice that municipal governments should refrain from carelessly and automatically resorting to forcible seizures in dealing with people in arrears in their premiums. Asked by Kasai whether the ministry issued such a notice, the Welfare Minister said that the ministry made verbal instructions to this effect in meetings with local government officials. Kasai criticized the government for dismissing Koike’s demand.

Referring to the National Tax Collection Act’s principle that the forcible seizure of properties should be avoided if it would impoverish the persons targeted, Kasai explained that this principle is also applied to the collection of national health insurance premiums. In response to Kasai who stressed that the law prohibits tax authorities from attaching a portion of salaries or pension benefits that is necessary for subsistence as well as welfare benefits, such as child welfare benefits, the Welfare Minister admitted that this regulation is effective in the health insurance program. Kasai said, “The question is whether this rule is adequately enforced at the local level.”

Kasai explained that some municipalities are trying to improve the nonpayment rate of the insurance premiums while extending support to those who have difficulties in making payments. He said that in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward and Shiga’s Yasu City, for example, when city officials find that a resident is having economic difficulties in making payments, they report the person to the welfare department to obtain assistance.

Kasai said, “Authorities should not take national health insurance cards away from sick people or punish those who have lost their jobs or sources of income because it can be a matter of life or death in some cases.” He stressed that the need is to take a “sunshine” approach which seeks to help people who cannot afford insurance premiums restore their financial health, not the cold “north-wind” approach which takes forcible measures irregardless of the negative consequences.

Kasai insisted that to expand premium reduction programs is a good way to decrease the number of people behind in payments. He stated that the national government should increase its share of contribution to the insurance program to drastically lower the premium burden.

Past related articles:
> Households face heavier national health insurance tax burden amid falling income [February 6, 2019]
> JCP Kurabayashi: Don’t take property away from people in arrears with national health insurance premiums [February 2, 2018]
> Expensive public health insurance premiums endanger people’s lives [February 14, 2016]
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