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    Insurance rate hikes to fund asbestos payouts

    Who decided that it was more important to let corporations continue to use types of asbestos fibers long recognized as unacceptably dangerous elsewhere? The Ministry of Health and Welfare (at it was then). Who gets to pay for it now that it’s a health care nightmare? Everyone. No, really:

    In an unprecedented move, the government will require all registered businesses in Japan to pay a combined 7.38 billion yen annually over four years from fiscal 2007 to help pay redress to people with asbestos-related health problems as well as deceased kin, sources said.

    To accomplish this, the rate of workers’ accident insurance will be raised at the roughly 2.6 million businesses that are being targeted, the vast majority of which have no connection whatsoever to asbestos.

    The funds will be used to cover asbestos-related medical costs for people living near plants that used the cancer-causing substance as well as to provide compensation to bereaved family members, the sources said.

    The government estimates that 76 billion yen will be needed by fiscal 2010. Of that amount, it will earmark about 40 billion yen to cover the huge number of applications for redress filed in late fiscal 2005 and 2006. It said 9.05 billion yen will be needed annually for fiscal 2007 and thereafter.

    An insurance program has to make a major payout, and premiums go up. That’s how it works. There’s nothing really remarkable here in that sense, I know. But this story is yet another sad indication that there were deep systemic problems in the federal government at the very Japan Inc.-era high point when it was being worshipped by so many Western commentators.

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