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Medical costs up, welfare benefits down from Apr. 1

Date Posted: 2003-04-05

Most patients going to see a doctor in Okinawa now have to cough up more of the cost from their own pockets. New rules covering the national health insurance program went into effect Apr. 1.

The biggest change affecting most people is that salaried workers now have to pay 30 percent of the cost from their own pocket, up from 20 percent until now. Another group that sees their payments going up are senior citizens over 65, whose medical bills will increase 1.4 fold.

The cost of nursing care for elderly is also increasing between 300 and 2,200 per month, depending on municipality. Some locations in Okinawa could actually see cost decreases. For example, residents in Zamami, Tokashiki and Kume Islands pay 380 per month less than before. However, nursing care for the elderly in Okinawa is the most expensive in the nation, averaging 4,972 per month, up 1,354 from before.

At the same time welfare benefits are slashed by an average of 0.9 percent. That means an average 1,480 per month less for a family of three on welfare.

Opponents of the new rules claim that the increases and cuts are unfair and especially hard for divorced or single mothers, who now face a double whammy in form of increased medical costs and decreased benefits. Okinawa has the largest percentage of such families in its population.

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