Japan as a Role Model for Ultra-Aging Societies: Innovation and Sustainability in Universal Access Healthcare

Japan’s healthcare system enables universal – and frequent – access to medical services, which is one of the reasons for Japan’s top performance in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy among G20 nations. However, Japan’s aging population and declining working population means the tax base will become insufficient to support such a standard within universal access healthcare within the next two decades without new policies and improved efficiencies.

The government is eyeing certain methods of supplementation such as increasing Japan’s workforce to remedy this, making it easier for foreign workers to receive working visas and contribute to social services. Immigration is on the rise, but more is needed, not only to bolster the working population and tax base, but also to grow the number of workers involved in medical and nursing care services required by the aging population.

Healthcare innovations with the potential to drive cost savings are needed, but there is a growing number of novel technologies available in the United States and Europe that have yet to be approved in Japan. The Japanese government has made great progress in lowering regulatory hurdles, although these improvements are not yet well understood. Many innovators are not coming to Japan due to this outdated understanding of regulatory challenges and uncertainty around pricing.

By enhancing pricing transparency, supporting innovations that bring long-term health economic benefit, continuing to lower regulatory hurdles, and further supporting immigration growth, Japan has the opportunity to lead the developed world in demonstrating sustainability of single-payer universal healthcare in an ultra-aging society.

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Posted by IAFOR