Health care costs rise to record level

Kyodo

Hospitals and clinics across Japan earned a record high ¥38.4 trillion in fiscal 2012, topping an average of ¥300,000 per person for the first time, preliminary estimates by the health ministry show.

This was 1.7 percent, or ¥600 billion, more than the previous year and a record 10th straight year of expansion, the data released Tuesday showed.

The ministry said the rising ranks of the elderly and increased costs for advanced medical services were driving the overall increase.

The expenditures per person rose 1.9 percent from the previous year to ¥301,000. Expenses for people under 70 averaged ¥181,000, up ¥2,000.

For those aged 70 or older, expenses per person averaged ¥804,000, down ¥1,000.

To reduce medical expenses, the ministry has been promoting the use of lower cost generic drugs and combating lifestyle-related diseases via public health projects. The estimates suggest the steps have not been effective in containing costs.

At ¥20 trillion, prescriptions and outpatient treatment accounted for 52.1 percent of the total. Hospitalization costs came to ¥15.6 trillion, or 40.6 percent of the total, and dental care expenses ¥2.7 trillion, or 7 percent.

Use of generic drugs rose 5.2 percentage points from the previous year to 28.7 percent, it said.

The ministry produces preliminary estimates to gain a quick insight into trends in health care expenditures based on health insurance claims from agencies.

Not covered are expenses paid out by workers’ compensation insurance or those bills paid out of pocket entirely by individuals. The preliminary figures cover about 98 percent of overall national health expenditures.