Friday, July 10, 2009

Japanese Health Care

One of the things Japan (and 35 other nations, for that matter) does better than the U.S. is health care. I came down with pneumonia several years ago and had to visit the clinic of the family doctor, a kindly general practitioner, twice a day for ten days, an hour and a half each time, for an IV drip. On Sunday, the clinic's day of rest, the doctor himself opened the office and administered the IV. When fully recovered I was presented with a bill for the office visits. Including the prescription medicine I had received during treatment, the total came to less than the equivalent of $200. I pay roughly $100 dollars a month to insure myself, my wife, and my three children. Whenever one of my loved ones feels ill, s/he visits the doctor, and the bill never exceeds $15, prescription medicine included. My children were born in Japanese hospitals, and my wife, like most Japanese mothers, spent a week in the maternity ward- some women stay for as long as two weeks. Our out-of-pocket expense? Nothing. That's right, $0. We were reimbursed by the city for the entire cost. Socialized medicine allows Japanese corporations such as Toyota to be more profitable than their American competitors. Indeed, former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca once quipped that GM spent more on employee health care (because the U.S. has no national health scheme) than it did on steel. As an American expat, I hope that my country can learn something from Japan, my adopted home.

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