Japanese regime begins talks on rising medical costs for the elderly

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The House of Representatives has started deliberating on a bill to double the share of reimbursable medical expenses to 20% for people aged 75 and over with certain incomes.

The government aims to have the bill on the reform of the medical system adopted during the current ordinary session of the Diet, which will run until June 16.

The increase in medical costs would start in the second half of fiscal year 2022. The specific timetable will be decided by government order.

The bill provides for an increase in fees for the elderly who live alone and have an annual income of at least 2 million yen. The income threshold would be 3.2 million yen for two-member households both of which are 75 years of age or older.

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At a plenary meeting of the Lower House of the Diet on Thursday, the government gave an explanation of the bill, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The bill aims to “reduce the growing burdens on the generation of workers and build a social security system in which all generations can feel secure,” said Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare -being social, Norihisa Tamura, while noting that social security costs are expected to rise further, post-war baby boomers begin to turn 75 in fiscal year 2022.

In the current medical system for people aged 75 or over, around 40% of medical costs, excluding those borne by service recipients, are covered by contributions from the working generation.

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Currently, the share of medical expenses borne by the elderly is set at 10% in principle, except for high-income earners, including those who live alone and have an annual income of 3.83 million yen or more.

These high income people pay 30% of their medical treatment costs by themselves. But they only represent 7% of the entire age group.

The planned 20% increase in costs is expected to affect some 3.7 million people, or 21% of the age group.

For those expected to pay 20% of medical costs, the annual per capita charge will increase by about 34,000 yen on average.

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The government plans to introduce a mitigation measure for three years after the law comes into force so that the increase in personal medical expenses does not exceed 3,000 yen per month.

The reform of the medical system for the elderly is expected to reduce the contributions of the working generation to the system by 72 billion yen in fiscal year 2022.

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