The government decided on Dec. 21 to raise fees for medical services by 0.004 percent and those for nursing care services for elderly people by 1.2 percent in fiscal 2012. Medical fees are revised every second year and nursing care fees every third year. The government hopes that the fee raises will lead to wage raises for medical professionals and nursing care workers. Although the decision will entail raising health and nursing care insurance premiums, it is hoped that it will help improve the working conditions at medical institutions and nursing care facilities, thus leading to improvement of the services.

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan government raised medical service fees for fiscal 2010 — the first raise in 10 years — to prevent the collapse of medical services, especially in the countryside, due to the earlier policy of holding down social welfare spending. Rewards for emergency medicine, obstetric and pediatric services were raised more than for other medical services. This has resulted in improvement of financial conditions at hospitals. The decision this time, which defied the Finance Ministry’s call for lowering the fees by about 2.3 percent, deserves praise.

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