Aging Japanese Population Strains Economy and Leads to Medical Insurance Cuts for the Elderly

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) recently announced its plans to reduce medical insurance coverage for some of its elderly population. Under the new measure, seventy to seventy-five year old citizens who are not in the higher income bracket will pay 20% of their medical bills, an increase from the previous level of 10%. Seventy to seventy-five year-old citizens within the higher income bracket will pay 30% of their medical bills, an increase from the previous level of 20%. By raising co-payments for elderly citizens, the Japanese government hopes to decrease medical costs by 12% over the next 20 years. The government’s aim is to revitalize the economy and prevent the healthcare system from going bankrupt.

The MHLW also proposed that patients pay for food and services during long hospital stays, and that drug and medical treatment prices be lowered. In addition, the government plans to implement new measures for preventing diseases and decreasing lengthy hospital visits. By educating citizens about healthy lifestyle choices, the government intends to reduce the number of cases of adult-onset diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

In Japan, the percentage of the population over sixty-five years old is growing, while the fertility rate is declining. In addition, more people are working for corporations that impose a mandatory retirement age. As a result, people over the age of sixty-five are leaving the workforce as fewer new workers are entering the workforce. The Japanese government recognizes that its graying society poses significant challenges to its economic and healthcare systems, and the MHLW has initiated this proposal in an effort to alleviate some of these problems.