Japan’s Reimbursement Regulatory Update

In April 2010, Japan officially updated its reimbursement prices. The complete details of this update were released on the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) website on September 1, 2010. This update has led to an overall net positive 0.19% change in medical treatment reimbursement rates. This 0.19% will increase medical reimbursements in Japan by approximately USD $840 million per year.

The 0.19% was calculated by comparing the medical treatment reimbursement rate changes against the medical device and drug price changes. Specifically, the medical treatment reimbursement rates went up while the medical device and drug prices went down. The MHLW reports that it has been ten years since there was a net positive outcome.

The update targets reimbursement for cancer, dementia, infectious diseases, and hepatitis. Thus, medical devices and drugs remedying these conditions may experience market growth.

Furthermore, high difficulty surgeries carried out in hospitals will have an increased reimbursement rate between 30% and 50%. There are approximately 1800 items that fall under this high difficulty surgery description, and about half of them will receive these reimbursement rate increases.

Japan has a universal healthcare system characterized by employer contributions, payroll deduction taxes, and patient co-payments. The reimbursement system in Japan groups medical devices and drugs into categories for the reimbursement application process. Medical companies aiming to attain reimbursement status for their products in Japan should focus on these categories.