Uninsured matter of death for 33

At least 33 people died in 17 prefectures in 2009 after not visiting doctors because they lacked national health insurance, a private survey showed Thursday.

The 33 stopped being covered by the national health insurance scheme after failing to pay insurance premiums due to financial difficulties, the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions said, referring to its survey of member institutions across the country.

The 33 comprised 27 men and six women. Of them, 23 were uninsured, six had invalid health insurance certificates and four were required to pay a medical bill in full before applying for reimbursement minus the deductible. Eighteen of them were unemployed and nine were irregular workers.

In one case, a 39-year-old man in Nagano Prefecture who died of lung cancer refrained from visiting a hospital due to his lack of a health insurance certificate, belatedly visiting a hospital two months after becoming aware of his cancer symptoms.

“The data show the severe situation of low-income people who are facing difficulties in receiving medical services at a time when the economic slump has exacerbated poverty and income disparities,” a federation official said.

The survey also found another 10 people who possessed health insurance certificates had died in six prefectures after refraining from visiting a hospital because they were unable to pay the medical expenses required.