Japan’s health insurance system remains deficit-ridden despite reforms
Japan Times -- Aug 18
The national health insurance program underwent a major reform at the start of fiscal 2018 that saw prefectures, rather than municipalities, begin managing the deficit-ridden system to improve its financial base.

The program, called kokumin kenkō hoken in Japanese, covers the self-employed, pensioners, nonregular workers and other people ineligible to join employment-based health insurance programs. It is the last stronghold of Japan’s universal health insurance system.

As of the end of fiscal 2016, for which the latest data are available, some 30.13 million people were covered by the program. But since their average income is low, the system cannot cover its medical costs based on premiums paid by them alone.

In fiscal 2016 ended March 2017, the program incurred a deficit of ¥146.8 billion on a real-term basis, excluding provisions from municipal governments’ general accounts.

Under the reform, the central government decided to transfer management of the insurance program from the municipal governments to the prefectural governments and increase financial support for the program, based on a legal revision in 2015.

But the municipal governments continue to determine their insurance premiums using the standard rates set by the prefectural governments.

Premiums have fallen in many municipalities this year as a result of the reform, which caused a new calculation system to be adopted that is more responsive to the income levels of the insured. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, premiums in fiscal 2016 dropped in 828 cities, wards, towns and villages, or 54 percent of all municipalities.

At the same time, disparities in premiums have widened among municipalities in the same prefecture, reflecting differences in income and number of members. The biggest disparity, 3.5 times, was found in Okinawa.

News source: Japan Times
Apr 02
As the new coronavirus spreads in Japan, some foreigners in the country lack information due to language barriers. (NHK)
Dec 26
The average winter bonus for workers at major Japanese businesses rose 1.77 percent from a year earlier to a record ¥951,411 this year, a survey showed Wednesday. (Japan Times)
May 03
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the ASEAN states, along with Japan, China, and South Korea say they will discuss a plan to incorporate Japanese and Chinese currencies in a swap program to ensure financial stability in the region. (NHK)
Mar 26
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei Average saw its biggest fall of 2019. The drop followed a plunge on Friday on Wall Street that came amid new worries of an economic slowdown. (NHK)
Mar 20
As trade talks between Japan and the US look likely to start soon, and the price of oil drops in Japan, the value of the Yen is increasingly under threat of deflation. (newsonjapan.com)
Mar 20
The average price of all types of land in urban areas rose last year for the first time since 1992 as the growing influx of foreign tourists rejuvenated real estate investment, the government said Tuesday. (Japan Times)
Mar 19
The Japanese economy will likely once again be assessed as "recovering at a moderate pace" in the government's monthly report due out Wednesday, which also will note potential risks from overseas economies. (Nikkei)
Mar 16
Japan will tighten oversight of pay for foreign employees through ordinances issued Friday, aiming to address major concerns over working conditions as the country prepares to accept more labor from abroad starting next month. (Nikkei)
Mar 09
Since the 2008 global financial crisis, expansionary monetary policy has been the order of the day in most of the major advanced economies. (Japan Times)
Mar 08
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied a media report Thursday that the government is considering introducing a minimum wage for specific industrial sectors that would apply to workers nationwide, regardless of where they live. (Japan Times)