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Japan eyes new funds to help hospitals reduce number of beds to stem rise in medical costs
The finance and health ministries are considering to create funds that will focus on supporting private hospitals in reducing the number of beds to stem a rise in medical costs, it was learned Thursday.
The idea calls for setting up such a fund in each of the country’s 47 prefectures to facilitate the realignment and integration of hospitals, informed sources said. Japan has too many hospital beds in relation to its population, a factor in its ballooning medical costs, experts said.
The cost of the assistance would be covered by additional revenue stemming from the Oct. 1 consumption tax increase from 8 percent to 10 percent.
Related expenses, which may reach several tens of billions of yen, would be included in the upcoming draft budget for fiscal 2020.
The new funds would be part of the country’s community health care vision to review the scale and function of hospitals across the country.
Private hospitals would be eligible for assistance from the envisioned funds that will reduce the number of beds in line with discussions at coordination councils of medical experts covering multiple municipalities.
The funds would help hospitals offset losses on past investments to be caused through the downsizing, on the condition that the beds to be scrapped are currently used to some extent to receive approval for the subsidies.
Japan has other funds for regional medical service reforms created in fiscal 2014.
But the funds, operating in all prefectures, cover not only bed reductions but also many other areas, such as improvements in home-based medical care and elderly nursing care services.
The Japan Medical Association has requested a review to the existing funds.
The community health care vision sets the number of hospital beds considered appropriate in 2025, when all of the country’s baby boomers will be 75 or older.
In September this year, the health ministry released a list of 424 publicly run hospitals that may have to be scrapped or integrated into others.
The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, a key government panel, proposed in October that Japan needs to reduce some 130,000 beds at public and private hospitals.