Medical costs in Japan in the fiscal year 2020, which ended in March this year, dropped a record 3.2 per cent from a year earlier to 42.16 trillion yen (USD 382 billion), according to a preliminary report by the health ministry.
The amount of money spent on medical institutions for treating diseases and injuries declined for the first time in four years, as people refrained from going to the doctors, concerned over the risk of contracting Covid-19, reports Xinhua news agency.
The fall is also attributed to a decrease in influenza and other diseases as people followed hygiene practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic such as wearing face masks and washing their hands frequently, the report said.
The costs for inpatient treatment went down 3.4 per cent to 17 trillion yen (USD 154 billion) and those for outpatient treatment fell 4.4 per cent to 14 trillion yen (USD 127 billion).
Expenses for dental patients decreased 0.8 percent and drug-dispensing costs slipped 2.7 per cent.
By disease type, costs for treating respiratory illness plunged 25.3 per cent to 1.67 trillion yen (USD 15 billion), with those related to Covid-19 totalling around 120 billion yen (USD 1 billion).
Paediatricians saw the sharpest drop of 22.2 per cent in medical expenses, followed by a 19.7 per cent fall in otolaryngologists.
Meanwhile, expenses for medical treatment for children of pre-school age or younger, in particular, declined 19.1 per cent.
Per capita medical costs came to 335,000 yen (USD 3,035), down by 10,000 yen (USD 90).
Medical expenses for those aged 75 or over averaged 920,000 yen (USD 8,336), over four times the average of 219,000 yen (USD 1,984) for those under 75.
The reported medical costs contain the total amount of payments from the public health insurance system, taxpayers’ money and out-of-pocket costs shouldered by patients.
Medical expenses fully paid by patients and those covered by the worker compensation system are not included.
The preliminary total accounts for around 98 per cent of all national medical expenses in Japan in fiscal 2020.