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60% of health insurance societies for big company workers to run in red in FY2018

TOKYO -- More than 60 percent of the 1,389 health insurance societies serving employees of major companies and other members are projected to run in the red this fiscal year, a budget report released on April 23 by the National Federation of Health Insurance Societies (Kenporen) showed.

    According to the fiscal 2018 budget estimate report, average premiums are also pegged to rise 0.051 points from last fiscal year to 9.215 percent, the 11th straight year of increases.

    The premium rates at 313 Kenporen-affiliated societies top the average 10 percent premium rate among societies of the Japan Health Insurance Association (Kyokai Kenpo), aimed at workers at small and medium-sized firms, and those 313 societies are on the brink of dissolution.

    Increasing health care costs for the elderly have pushed up health insurance society outlays and put stress on their balance sheets.

    According to Kenporen, total income from premiums is set to rise 2.07 percent from fiscal 2017 to about 8.1 trillion yen. Some 4.14 trillion yen of that -- or about half of the total -- is committed to payouts for the legally mandated regular coverage for doctor and hospital visits by members and their families. Care for the elderly soaks up some 40 percent of the total budget, or about 3.5 trillion yen, covered by the premiums of members still in the workforce.

    This ratio is expected to pass 50 percent in 2025, when the baby boom generation will all be 75-plus. According to the Kenporen budget report, 283 of its member societies will already be paying out more for elderly care than for regular medical visit coverage this fiscal year.

    If many Kenporen societies raise premiums to cover the growing cost of care for the elderly, many memberships may prefer to dissolve the societies and move under the Kyokai Kenpo umbrella to relieve the load. However, a large shift to Kyokai Kenpo societies would also necessitate a boost in government subsidies for the group, while former Kenporen-affiliated society members could also lose certain benefits including subsidies for regular full physical examinations.

    (Japanese original by Masahiro Sakai and Ryosuke Abe, Medical Welfare Department)

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