More Fukushima kids get free medical care

FUKUSHIMA - A free medical care system for people aged 18 or younger started Monday in Fukushima Prefecture, a policy aimed at encouraging residents with children to stay in the prefecture hit hard by the nuclear crisis.

This is the first time a prefectural government has made medical fees free for people under 19 years old.

The crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has made many residents with small children fearful about staying.

At Ichikawa Clinic in Fukushima, about 60 appointments--nearly double the usual number--had been made as of 9 a.m. when the clinic opened.

Children up to the third grade of middle school were eligible for free medical care under the city's previous system, but this has now been expanded.

Mima Endo, a 36-year-old farmer, brought her 3-year-daughter to the clinic. Endo said she realised the new system would really start when she last week received her daughter's qualification certificate, which is valid until March 31, 2027.

"I think this will support people who decide to stay in Fukushima," she said.

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