Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare will reportedly be raising the government-set remuneration for dental treatment involving silver fillings, that consist of palladium, in May. The move comes in response to the elevated prices of the rare metal, which has soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sources have stated.
For the record, Russia is one of the major producers of palladium.
These silver fillings, consisting of palladium and other metals, are covered under Japan’s national health insurance program. The remunerations that dentists receive for these treatments are also reviewed four times annually due to fluctuating market prices of the materials.
As an emergency measure, the health ministry decided on raising the silver filling treatment cost in May, following a sharp rise in the market price of palladium due to supply concerns, which has caused many dentists to lose money while procuring materials.
According to sources, the cost review will signify an increase of several hundred yen for each tooth that is treated with a silver filling for patients under the age of 70.
As of last month, the government-fixed price for 30g of silver filling material was set at ¥88,530 ($700).
An association of dental practitioners requested the government to increase remunerations for such treatments with the price of filling materials having reached as high as ¥120,000 ($952) at one point.
The ministry hiked the fixed price of silver filling materials under national insurance to ¥94,470 ($749) during the April review and now plans to propose a further hike to over ¥100,000 ($793) later this week during a meeting. Sources claimed that the meeting will be responsible for setting the medical costs covered under the national insurance program.
According to the trade statistics by Finance Ministry, 34.5% of Japan’s palladium imports were from Russia last year, coming in second after South Africa, with 48.8%.
In Japan, the fixed-cost of filling materials comprising of palladium has doubled in the past 5 years, with the government recently designating the metal as one of the important commodities that should be secured from producers other than Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.