Tokyo, February 19:

Most Japanese people on low incomes are concerned they will be unable to afford medical fees, reflecting wider worries about growing wealth inequality, a recent poll showed.

Eighty-four per cent of Japanese who earn less than three million yen ($25,108) a year said they were worried about medical costs, the Japan Health Policy Institute reported. Forty per cent said they refrained from getting medical check-ups because of the fees, while 26 per cent said they did not seek treatment even if their doctors recommended it, the non-profit organisation said.

Many high-income households are also worried, with 36 per cent of people earning more than eight million yen ($67,000) a year expressing concern that they will be unable to afford medical expenses. Japan has traditionally prided itself on having an equitable medical system but the cost of it is placing a growing burden on public finances as the population ages.

Under Japan’s public medical insurance scheme, patients undergoing treatment must pay 30 per cent of the expenses, or upwards of 10 per cent for the elderly.

The institute surveyed 4,000 people last month, of which about 33 per cent responded.