No way, is this for real?

sick cat

I have a lot of complaints about the Japanese national healthcare system, and the other day I aired them at JJs.  The defensive response I got surprised me, and made me realise that the Japanese are – rightfully or otherwise – proud of the NH system here, especially in comparison with the North American model.  A couple of the JJs had lived in the US in the past, and a couple more had close relatives currently living there, and they all had major concerns about the way the system works there.  They were especially critical of the role of insurance companies.  I don’t know much about it, so I took their complaints with a grain or two of salt, until by chance I read this article.  Frankly, it horrified me.  Is that really the way that things work there?  And why do so many middle-class Americans have so much resistance to their taxes being raised to pay for a socialised healthcare system, when in the long run it would probably work out cheaper for them than paying for private insurance?  Surely any idiot can do the math. 

Sure, I have my complaints about the Japanese system (usually we pay 30% and the government covers the rest; the treatment itself is bare-bones at best, yet as a veteran of two successful surgeries in Japan I can’t complain).  But I rest a lot easier knowing that I’d never be in danger of going bankrupt for an emergency procedure for myself or my kid.   And I’m pretty sure that I’d never have to take him to be treated in a “field hospital.” 

Actually I’m thinking of encouraging him to go into the private healthcare insurance trade, as that seems to be the easy path to riches these days.

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12 comments on “No way, is this for real?

  1. Karen says:

    People resist national health care here because “it’s socialist”, because it takes away their freedom of choice, etc. It’s insane.

  2. Petra says:

    Don’t get me started on this subject!

    When I started my own company I wanted to buy private insurance from the insurance company I was with while still being employed. I had a chat with the insurance company rep, who said “no problem, we’d be delighted to have you.” I filled out some forms, sent them off and was glad that I would not have to hunt around for another insurance company.

    Three weeks later I received a letter telling me in curt words that I did not qualify to buy private insurance from them (at several hundred dollars per month.) The reason: I had once visited my doctor to get migraine medication.

    Yes! Not only “you have a pre-existing condition (migraines) which is so costly that we can not cover it,” but “we do not want you at all.”

    I am still not over that idiocy.

    P.S. The price for that medication was around $160.00. One packet lasted for about one year.

    P.P.S. Another insurance company was not quite a picky as that, they took me and my dollars on and did not even except my terrible “pre-existing condition.”

    So – health care in the US – grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……………

  3. Petra says:

    P.P.P.S. How I long for the German system when it comes to health insurance. (Insert deep sigh here.)

  4. Miko says:

    I really miss the NZ system, much more efficient and far cheaper than Japan. But, you take whatever you can get!

  5. Petra says:

    Miko, my beef with the US system is twofold:

    1.For most people insurance is coupled to their jobs. Lose the job, lose health insurance.

    2. The terrible way the insurance companies treat their customers – premiums rise and rise and yet one can never be sure whether one really gets taken care of once one does need the insurance.

  6. Miko says:

    In Japan lots of people stay in jobs they really hate, for various reasons, but fear of losing their coverage is not one of them. And private insurance is in fact widely available here. The last time I checked (considering my age and wage scale), it would cost me about $20 a month for comprehensive coverage. I don’t bother with it, though.

  7. ryomasgirl says:

    Yes, the system in the US leaves much to be desired. For now I work for the public schools and have excellent coverage but most people don’t have it quite as good as those of us in the school system. I think the Japanese system is not a bad system for the US to model since it offers pretty comprehensive coverage and choice of providers as well as giving people the option to purchase more insurance should they desire it. I think getting a system similar to Canada or the UK would be a very tough sell in the US. If only Americans really knew how much better it is in other countries that do have some form of universal coverage they would get over most of their fears of “socialized” medicine. No system is perfect but nobody should have to do without basic medical care for any reason.

  8. Miko says:

    I absolutely agree Jeni, but I have to add that a large part of the success of the system here hinges on preventive medicine, such as public education, and regular mass checkups to catch problems before they start (including waistline checks, and the like!). Would the American public really be willing to go for that? I’m not too keen on it myself.

    Also, recently the standard of emergency care in Japan leaves a lot to be desired, especially in urban areas. I cannot describe the number of horror stories I’ve heard, particularly about the ambulance services. In fact, one of the reasons I live on this island is that it’s within easy walking distance of Kobe’s finest general hospital.

  9. Jeni says:

    Oh, yeah, I am not saying that there aren’t major problems. I think what works is the system the Japanese government has of negotiating the prices of each and every medical care service is good and then the way in which coverage is provided either through the government or through private employers/insurers to keep costs down and make sure everyone is insured. This is really the problem in the US–insurance and cost of care. Preventive medicine…well, I think if many kinds of check-ups were free then sure people would go. They might not like mandatory checks but sure, they wouldn’t mind going to the doctor for checks that were free. I think well baby visits and required children’s vaccines should all be free of charge, too.

  10. Petra says:

    $20 a month for comprehensive coverage?

    (Exits stage left for a good, long, hard crying jag.)

  11. Karen says:

    Where are you, Petra? I want to sit in a dark corner and cry with you.

  12. Miko says:

    The $20 course (the cheapest option available, aimed specifically at women aged 18 – 64) would only pay out $20,000 in a lump sum for hospitalisation up to two weeks including treatment, and a bit more in the case of women’s cancers. No way would a paltry amount like that that cut it in the US! Besides, you’d still be at the mercy of the Tape Measure Police.

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