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Nine doctors busted for unpaid pension premiums

Date Posted: 2004-02-26

The Japan Social Insurance Agency, for the first time in 17 years, has taken sharp measures to collect mandatory pension premiums.

Nine self-employed Okinawan residents, all of them doctors, had their bank accounts frozen by the government, because they had not paid their mandatory pension premiums despite repeated requests from officials.

Agency officials say they made Okinawa the target because the prefecture has the largest percentage of self-employed people in the nation who have failed to pay the required payments to the system. More than 60 percent of Okinawans required to pay did not do so. The mandatory payments amount to Y13,300 per month.

Officials first drew a list of 500 self-employed people in Okinawa who had not paid their premiums in fiscal 2002, then sent them letters urging them to pay up. They then selected nine from the list who failed to respond, after deeming that they had means to comply, and proceeded to freeze their bank accounts.

Officials at the Ministry of Health and Welfare say they will begin similar measures in other parts of the country in March. The nationwide default rate stands at 37.2 percent.

Many younger people refuse to pay the premiums, claiming that by the time they could be eligible for the pension benefits, the system will be broke as Japan’s population ages rapidly.

A spokesman for the Okinawa Prefecture Social Insurance Bureau said that by seizing the deadbeats’ bank accounts, they hoped to drive home the notion that it is the duty of every self-employed person to pay the required premiums. “Most of those to whom we sent a letter reminding them of their duty to pay responded in one way or another, but these nine did not answer at all, that’s why we picked them up as the first targets,” a spokesman for the bureau said.

He also said that anyone who has a legitimate reason why he or she cannot pay can get an exemption, but those people have to contact the Social Insurance Office and present proof of their inability to pay.

Bureau officials say there are more than 30,000 residents in Okinawa liable for social insurance payments for self-employed. Many of those who failed to comply cite the trouble of making a trip to a social insurance office to arrange the payments. Previously, local municipal offices took care of the service, but a reform of the system concentrated the service to specific social insurance offices. They are few and far between.

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