A proverb says ‘a little leak sinks a great ship’. It means a minuscule crack can destroy a big, strong structure. Good examples are recent decisions taken by Premier Abe Shinzo: approval of the right of collective self-defense and permission to increase medical treatments outside insurance coverage. The latter will destroy the entire healthcare system which covers every one of people.
UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM WILL BE UNDERMINED
Everyone can consult a doctor with his/her healthcare certificate at any moment and place in the country. This is Japan’s universal healthcare system that guarantees health and lives of people. We are proud of it. The government does not set an upper limit of allowances it owes so as to protect one’s health and life. Payment levied on an individual patient is kept affordable.
The system began in 1961 and over half a century has passed since then. It has created a society where people can live far longer. It constitutes a rock bed of other social services. One of the principal rules is prohibition to classify treatments. That means a treatment for a slight cold cannot be separated from those for a disease that needs a major surgery which takes many hours. All of medical processes are connected in series to be integrated organically into a single system.
It is impossible to split these processes by lining into an insurance-covered field and not-covered one in which a patient should pay all the costs.
Furthermore, the current insurance system covers only authorized surgeries and medicines in terms of safety. It is because, otherwise, a patient who lacks technical knowledge may be exposed to ineffective treatments and side effects.
Business Profits First, Human Life Next
There are some exceptions, for instance, for cancer therapy: treatments that the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare approves after examinations by its experts’ council. In other words, a patient may undergo treatments covered by insurance and those not covered. In fact 94 kinds of treatments on cancer, including proton therapy, are provided in total 1239 medical institutions in the country.
Premier Abe Shinzo declared, however, on June 10 in a Tokyo hospital attached to a university during his inspection tour that treatments outside insurance coverage could increase in the number. That means a medical institution is allowed to use new medicines not yet authorized domestically and increase latest equipment, complying with application of a patient. The government incorporates this policy into the Growth Strategy which will be issued by the end of June. It is planned, reportedly, to present related bills during the 2015 ordinary Diet session.
This policy had been proposed by the Council for Regulatory Reform in the end of last March to approve a dual character of medical services, which is to divide them into insured treatments and not-insured. It will diminish public character of healthcare system to replace it with business led by private insurance companies. Thus, profits of Big Business override human lives. A neo-liberal initiative begins to break down the universal healthcare system.
Human Life Can be Traded
Several organizations of patients, including the Japan Patients Association, oppose the policy, claiming that ‘medical safety may be jeopardized and only the rich can enjoy services’. The Japan Medical Association and the Health Care Unions express objections, too.
If costly, insurance-uncovered treatments increase, pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers will be more carefree from time-consuming and costly procedures to apply for coverage and could enjoy a privilege that a cutting-edge technology remain outside the insurance system. That means to patients a human life can be traded in money term.
A healthcare system links with a life of people. Prime Minister Abe drills a hole to destroy the bedrock. Premier has produced one more political addendum. He has run violently. Let’s raise voices of objection! No! to Removal of insurance coverage from medical treatments.
June 24, 2014