OECD Economics Department Working Papers

Working papers from the Economics Department of the OECD that cover the full range of the Department’s work including the economic situation, policy analysis and projections; fiscal policy, public expenditure and taxation; and structural issues including ageing, growth and productivity, migration, environment, human capital, housing, trade and investment, labour markets, regulatory reform, competition, health, and other issues.

The views expressed in these papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries.

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Health-Care Reform in Japan

Controlling Costs, Improving Quality and Ensuring Equity

Japan’s health-care system has provided universal access to care and contributed to the outstanding health status of the Japanese. Public spending has been kept below the OECD average through high co-payment rates and reductions in medical fees. However, with continued upward pressure on expenditure, in part due to rapid population ageing, reforms are needed to limit spending increases through greater efficiency, while improving quality. It is essential to shift long-term care out of hospitals, reform the pricing mechanism away from pay-for-visit, increase the use of generic drugs, encourage healthy ageing and promote restructuring in the hospital sector. Quality should be improved by increasing the availability of effective new drugs and medical devices. In funding spending increases, it is important to limit the share borne by employees to avoid negative effects on the labour market. Japan may need to allow more mixed billing to enhance access to some advanced medical treatments.


Keywords: healthy ageing, hospital, universal coverage, mixed billing, Diagnosis Procedure Combination, generic drugs, PMDA, Japanese health care, long-term care, medical expenditures, medical devices, drug lag, National Health Insurance, health insurance
JEL: I1: Health, Education, and Welfare / Health
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