Gambling addicts to gain coverage in Japan

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The public medical health insurance system will be applied by the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry to treat gambling addiction.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to apply the public medical health insurance system to treat gambling addiction starting next fiscal year, according to sources.
 The ministry concluded it is urgent to establish an appropriate medical system for patients suffering from addiction caused by gambling — such as in casinos, on horse racing and pachinko — following discussions at the Central Social Insurance Medical Council, an advisory panel to the health minister, whose meeting was held on Wednesday, the sources said.
 As a law to promote the management of integrated resorts that include casinos was enacted in July 2018, countermeasures against gambling addiction have become an issue.
 Gambling addiction is a mental illness that the World Health Organization defines as an impediment that dominates one’s life to such a degree that it undermines one’s social, professional and family values.
 According to a survey by the health ministry, the number of patients who have been treated for gambling addiction is increasing every year, with 3,499 outpatients in fiscal 2017. However, many possible patients are believed to have not received treatment.
According to a 2017 survey conducted by a research team of the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Kanagawa Prefecture, the number of adults who are suspected of being addicted to gambling is estimated to be about 3.2 million nationwide.
 While the basic law on measures against gambling addiction was enacted in July last year, the public medical health insurance system currently does not cover treatment specific to gambling addiction.
 Under an envisioned measure, the ministry expects the system will cover group therapy treatment, in which several patients, up to about 10 of them, exchange opinions on why they became addicted to gambling and how to deal with it.
 According to a study conducted by a research team of the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development on 187 patients at 35 medical institutions nationwide, those who had taken part in the therapy were found to more likely quit gambling than those who had not.
 However, applying the public medical health insurance system to treat gambling addiction is expected to face opposition. 
 At Wednesday’s meeting, many members of the council agreed with the idea, while others called for careful consideration.
 “Gambling addiction is something you should try to recover from through your own efforts,” one member said. “If the public medical health insurance system is not carefully applied [for treatment of gambling addiction], it could bring an opposite result [such as increasing the number of patients].”


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