Therapeutic Medical Apps Move Closer to Health Insurance Coverage Eligibility in Japan

In recognition of the growing popularity and importance of mobile software applications that diagnose, track or treat disease, Japan is considering making the use of such apps eligible for reimbursement by its government health insurance system.

The question of how and whether to allow reimbursement for consumers who utilize such apps emerged as a hot topic last summer when Japan approved domestic sales of a nicotine addiction treatment app. But the product was not classified at the time as a medical device eligible for reimbursement.

Now the Central Social Insurance Medical Council (Chuikyo) has announced it will discuss extending its national fee schedule to such apps. Japan’s reimbursement policy for medical care does not allow extra charges other than those officially set by the national fee schedule, with certain exceptions for limited types of services. That has been a useful tool for the Ministry of Health in controlling resource allocation and regulating the entry of innovative but expensive technology.

If the therapeutic apps are deemed eligible for the health insurance coverage, the change would not go into effect before the next scheduled medical fee reform in Fiscal Year 2022.