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20% of A-bomb disease reauthorization turned down by local governments via The Mainichi

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The rejection rate, which was reported to be only around several percent in the past, shot up to the current level after 2014, when the central government instructed local governments to “properly manage” the program.

Groups of atomic bomb survivors, or “hibakusha,” say that some applications are turned down almost automatically, and that such handling runs counter to the spirit of the medical allowance coverage.

Certifications for atomic bomb diseases, which includes symptoms believed to have been caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, are approved on the basis of two criteria: whether the health conditions were induced by radiation and if the applicants are in need of medical treatment. Certified patients have to apply for renewal every three years, and prefectural governments or the municipal governments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki review their applications in terms of the latter criterion.

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Regarding the other criterion concerning the necessity for medical treatment, the health ministry instructed the local governments concerned in 2014 to “objectively confirm” renewal applications, after participants in a ministry panel reviewing the procedure reportedly pointed out that the process was carried out “loosely.” The ministry also introduced new conditions for this criterion as well, telling the prefectural and municipal governments to reject applications if a hibakusha’s cancer did not relapse roughly five years after undergoing an operation.

Consequently, the number of rejected renewal applications surged. According to the health ministry, the ratio was around several percent before fiscal 2014, but increased to 17 percent in fiscal 2014, with 607 out of 3,618 applications turned down. In fiscal 2016, the rejection rate reached 21 percent, as 443 of 2,095 applications were scrapped.

In the city of Hiroshima, where about 1,000 renewal applications are submitted annually, the refusal rate rose from 2 percent in fiscal 2013 to 20 percent the next fiscal year, and the figure was 13 percent in fiscal 2017. In Nagasaki, no rejections were made in fiscal 2013, but as many as 25 percent of applications were rejected in fiscal 2017.

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A health ministry official acknowledged that the increase in rejections is a result of the ministry’s instructions, but stated that the change was necessary because “the application review is now managed the way it should be.”

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