【Aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan】No.181:Survey results on medical institutions accepting foreign patients

In this column series, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Research Director at CIGS introduces the latest information about aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan with data of international comparison.

As mentioned in Column No.76, the number of foreign tourists increased from 1.3 million in 1980 to 28.7 million in 2017. According to preliminary figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number reached 31 million in 2018. With the Tokyo Olympics scheduled in 2020, the number of foreign tourists is expected to increase further. To ensure a safe visit for foreign tourists coming to Japan, it is necessary to develop medical institutions that can accept foreigners. Therefore, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare conducted a survey of medical institutions (hospitals and clinics) as of October 2018 and announced the results in March 2019.

There are three types of foreign patients:

    (1) Foreign resident patients staying in Japan with status of residence
    (2) Foreign travelers who need treatment due to illness or injury while staying in Japan for leisure or work
    (3) Medical tourism patients who came to Japan for treatment

      Among them, the survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare targeted (1) and (2).

      Of the 8,417 hospitals nationwide, 3,980 responded to the survey. Of these, 1,965 hospitals (49.4%) accepted foreign patients in October 2018. However, 140 hospitals from the 1,965 did not report the actual number of foreign patients. Table 1 shows the distribution of the 1,825 hospitals that reported the number. While approximately 60% of hospitals had 10 or fewer foreign patients, 10 hospitals provided medical care to over 1,000 patients. One hospital had 6,631 foreign patients, which is the highest.

      About 90% of the hospitals accepting foreign traveler patients charge the same fee as the medical care reimbursement for public health insurance applicable on the Japanese. However, looking at 178 hospitals that accept a large number of foreign patients, 27% of them charge more than twice the medical care reimbursement. Meanwhile, there is also the problem of foreign patients who do not pay.

      Table 1 Hospital distribution based on the number of foreign patients per month


      Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

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