The Yomiuri ShimbunThe pension system is attracting attention as a contentious issue in the House of Councillors election. But medical treatment and nursing care are also important points of contention when considering life after retirement.
Political parties are called on to deepen the debate over how to maintain the system in which people can receive such services with ease.
Medical insurance and nursing insurance are systems under which medical treatment and care are provided when people become ill or require nursing care. The Japanese systems are characterized by the fact that extensive services can be secured by paying only a certain portion of insurance costs.
However, with the aging of the population, these systems are in danger of losing their sustainability.
In 2040, when the population of elderly people will reach its peak, the rate of expenses for social security benefits as a part of gross domestic product will rise from the current 21.5 percent to 24 percent. The increase will be most remarkable in the medical and nursing care sectors.
Costs must be prevented from swelling while assessing which services are necessary. To this end, it is indispensable to take measures to establish the order of priority.
There are not a few hospitals that accept elderly patients who are not seriously ill and put them in high-cost sickbeds for seriously sick patients. While limiting sickbeds used in this way, hospitals are called on to increase the number of sickbeds to help patients recuperate before leaving hospital.
Home-visit nursing care provides support services including shopping and housecleaning. But the recipients of these services include those who are able to lead a relatively self-reliant life, drawing criticism that they are “using the home care service as a substitute for a housekeeper.”
Concerning support services for household chores, it is imperative to look into transferring the service to be undertaken by local governments.
Diseases suffered by the elderly are mostly lifestyle-related ones including diabetes. Dementia is also common. Home care is a field in which demand is anticipated to increase in the years to come.
It is necessary to make it possible for senior citizens to lead their lives in the familiar place of their homes without anxiety, by enhancing home medical care and strengthening connections between medical treatment and nursing care.
To prepare for such an environment, it is essential to secure personnel, for nursing care services in particular.
It is imperative to make efforts such as raising pay for caregivers and decreasing their burden by introducing nursing robots. It is also necessary to study how to accept foreign workers in the nursing care sector.
As a measure to enhance the sense of ease in post-retirement life, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) proposes a system of setting a ceiling for the total amount of bills paid by individuals, for such services as medical and nursing care, according to the level of their income.
The proposal is meant to be a measure for low-income earners, but the CDPJ is called on to explain in detail to eligible voters how it will secure fiscal resources to cover the portions of costs that will exceed the amount set by such ceilings.