Week 1: 健康のシステム (The Health System)


This article/piece from NPR discusses several major key points of the Japanese healthcare system, giving some reasons why it is such a successful one as far as world powers are concerned. Health insurance is mandatory, and the government pays it for you if you are poor, but most hospitals and almost all doctor’s offices are privately owned and operated. The Japanese Health Ministry, on the other hand, regulates fixed prices on procedures and medications in a way similar to that of the National Health Service in Britain. Insurers cannot deny claims. In spite of this, doctors are not paid well in Japan compared to other countries, hospital stays are long, and, surprisingly, hospitals are in a financial crisis.

This week’s vocabulary:

健康保険 (けんこうほけん): health insurance
If you have health insurance, you’ll be fine in any sort of accident.

保険金 (ほけんきん): insurance money
He wants to claim insurance money, but he didn’t suffer any serious injuries in that accident, right?

退院 (たいいん): discharged from the hospital
My grandfather was recently discharged from the hospital, and seems to have become even stronger than before.

検査 (けんさ): examination/scan (such as an MRI or PET scan)
The liver cancer test came back negative. That’s a relief!

手術 (しゅじゅつ): operation/procedure
To prepare for the surgery, you absolutely mustn’t drink anything for the next 24 hours.

I was surprised to see that the Japanese healthcare system serves as a sort of opposite to American healthcare. The Japanese system seems to place most of its expenditures toward affordable healthcare for all instead of only some, and the insurance companies do not serve as enforcers, unlike in the American system, but rather as beneficiaries in addition to the government. For the record, $10-a-night hospital stays would be unthinkable in the US, but then again, so would two-week ones unless someone is severely ill. This sort of dichotomy is especially interesting coming from a country known for hard-line stances on work and school attendance. Although the Japanese, as in other societies, know that healthcare is not a universal good (even with the Health Ministry’s fixed pricing schemes, some drugs are still extremely expensive), they do manage to keep it at least somewhat free and beneficial. Although imperfect, and possibly not sustainable in the near future because of an aging population, it still serves as a good example of an effective universal healthcare system.

Other sources on the subject:


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