National

Medical expenses in fiscal 2013 hit new high for seventh straight year at ¥40 trillion

Kyodo

Medical expenses paid to hospitals and clinics across the country in fiscal 2013 increased 2.2 percent from the previous year to ¥40.06 trillion, topping the ¥40 trillion line for the first time and hitting a record high for the seventh straight year, the health ministry said Wednesday.

The rise in expenses in the year to March 2014 resulted from an aging population and advances in medical technology.

Per capita medical expenses rose 2.3 percent to ¥314,700. Those for elderly people aged 65 or older came to ¥724,500 — quadruple the ¥177,700 for younger people — indicating that aging has a great impact on overall medical spending in Japan.

The national medical expenses cover medical care services subject to insurance, excluding costs for uninsured medical care, health checkups and normal childbirths.

Health insurance premiums covered ¥19.52 trillion, or 48.7 percent, of the total expenditure in fiscal 2013, while patients’ direct payments amounted to ¥4.71 trillion, or 11.8 percent, and central and local government payments stood at ¥15.53 trillion, or 38.8 percent.

The government plans to boost measures to reduce medical spending, including a cut in the number of beds at hospitals, given that expenses for inpatients at hospitals accounted for 37.4 percent of the total in fiscal 2013.

For fiscal 2014, the ministry gave a preliminary estimate last month of ¥39.96 trillion, indicating the final estimate would again exceed ¥40 trillion.

The preliminary estimate, excluding expenses such as those related to industrial injury insurance, usually covers around 98 percent of the final estimate.