04 January 2006
The Japanese healthcare system

I went through my treatment in complete ignorance of Japan’s healthcare system.  Since then I’ve done a bit of research.  This is what I have been able to glean:

  • There is a mixture of public and private provision.  They all charge (in the first instance) full whack
  • Health insurance is compulsory and must be purchased either from the government or through one’s employer.  And it only covers about 70% of the cost.  In the Ishikawas’ case it is only 35%.  Their employer pays the other 35%.  The insurance costs themselves (according to the Ishikawas) are crippling.  This is because it is not proper insurance.  It is more of a Pay As You Go system like our beloved state pensions.  And like our state pensions they are paying for the older generation.
  • It takes twice as long to get discharged in Japan as it does in the West.  I can vouch for this.  At almost exactly the same age as I am now my father also went down with appendicitis though this time it was in France (we Croziers don’t do anything the easy way).  He was out in four days: I was out in eight.
  • Japanese doctors have a reputation for haughtiness - you know, not listening to the patient, not telling him what is going on, having a poor bedside manner etc.  This was not my experience.
  • The system is (apparently) starting to creak.  On the one hand, Japan has an aging population which means the bills keep going up.  On the other, because it is paying the bills, the government won’t pay for some of the more modern treatments.  Remind you of anything?

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