14 Mai 2012
FUKUSHIMA -- Medical care costs for children under 18 will be free in this prefecture, which is still reeling from the nuclear disaster, with the aim of stemming the ongoing population drain.
The Fukushima Prefectural Government formally decided on May 14 that all medical costs for prefectural residents aged 18 or younger will be free of charge starting in October -- marking the nation's first move of its kind.
The decision came after the prefecture's plea to the central government to foot those medical bills fell on deaf ears and the prefecture started considering covering the costs on its own. Related budget bills will be submitted to the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly in June for a planned implementation in October.
While the prefecture's cities, towns and villages have already made medical costs for children in the third-grade or younger free, the latest initiative will add a new system under which the medical costs for children between the fourth-grade and 18 years old will also be entirely subsidized.
The new program will cost 4.7 billion yen annually, which will be covered by part of a fund created for monitoring prefectural residents' health.
"The future of Fukushima Prefecture rests on the shoulders of the children here. This initiative will be a symbol for making Fukushima the nation's best prefecture for giving birth to babies and raising children," said Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato.