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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 March 6 - 12  > Min-iren survey: 77 people died in 2018 because of reluctance to go to hospital due to financial constraints
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2019 March 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Min-iren survey: 77 people died in 2018 because of reluctance to go to hospital due to financial constraints

March 7 and 8, 2019

The Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions (Min-iren) on March 6 at a press conference held in Tokyo announced that its annual survey of member facilities found that 77 people died in 2018 because they refrained from seeing a doctor for financial reasons.

Among the 77 persons, 38 had no insurance coverage at all or only had temporary certificates for the national health insurance. The remaining 39 were those with a proper health insurance card or those on welfare.

At the press conference, Min-iren Secretary General Kishimoto Keisuke pointed out that these deaths occurred against the backdrop of growing poverty. He said that about 70% of the deceased were elderly persons and that the Abe government’s plan for social security reform will deliver a heavy blow to older generations. Kishimoto stressed that the government should review its reform plan.

Min-iren director and doctor Tamura Akihiko underscored the need to create a public health insurance program in which everyone can have access to medical treatment without financial anxieties.

***

Akahata on March 8 reported on a case in which a man in his 40s died of esophageal cancer due to delay in seeing a doctor because he was unable to afford to pay national health insurance premiums.

The man, Komatsu Mitsuaki, lived in Kochi City with his wife and three-year-old daughter. He earned about 170,000 yen a month as a self-employed construction worker. After utility charges, rent, and other fixed expenses were paid, there would be only 40,000 yen left in his pocket.

In January 2018, Komatsu began to feel something was wrong with his throat but he was unable to see a doctor. As he had fallen behind in his payment of the national health insurance tax for a few years, his medical insurance card was invalidated. In order to obtain a new card, he had to make a lump sum payment of 140,000 yen.

With help from a Japanese Communist Party Kochi City assembly member, Komatsu received a short-term health insurance card at last in October after paying part of the unpaid health insurance tax, but it was too late. He passed away on February 28 this year at the age of 47.

Two weeks before his death, Komatsu said to Akahata, “I think that a health insurance card should be reissued when its holder pays part of his or her arrears even if the payment is equivalent to only one month’s premium. Timely consultation with a doctor and early detection of diseases saves lives.”

Past related articles:
> 63 people died because of delays in seeking treatment due to economic reasons [April 19, 2018]
> Min-iren survey: Poverty holds people back from seeing doctors, resulting in 58 deaths [April 1, 2017]
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