Why Japan Has One of the Best Medical Care Systems in the World

It is well-known that the Japanese have one of the longest life expectancy rates in the world. And this largely has to do with the excellent health care system that the country has implemented. (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
It is well-known that the Japanese have one of the longest life expectancy rates in the world. And this largely has to do with the excellent health care system that the country has implemented. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

It is well-known that the Japanese have one of the longest life expectancy rates in the world. And this largely has to do with the excellent health care system that the country has implemented. Everything from medical insurance, hospital protocols, and the fee of doctors has been carefully systemized to ensure that citizens get the cheapest, swiftest, and the most effective medical care.

Bloomberg study ranked Japan fourth in terms of getting the best bang for their buck when it comes to spending on healthcare. The healthcare cost per capita for the country was calculated at just US$4,752 per person compared the United States’ figure of US$8,895 per person. But despite spending far higher on healthcare, U.S. citizens lived almost 5 years less than the Japanese.

Focus on the citizens

People have long criticized the U.S. government for focusing too much on the profits of healthcare companies at the expense of its citizens. In contrast, the Japanese government has been admired for creating the country’s healthcare system with a strong focus on the welfare of its people.

Japan is able to achieve this by banning insurance companies from making excessive profits, accepting shortcomings in health care, and setting strict limits on how high the fees that doctors can charge.

How does the controlled air keep you safe while you're at your local hospital? (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Japan is able to achieve this by banning insurance companies from making excessive profits, accepting shortcomings in health care, and setting strict limits on how high the fee doctors can charge. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

“Most Japanese doctors make far less money than their U.S. counterparts. Administrative costs are four times lower than they are in the United States, in part because insurance companies do not set rates for treatment or deny claims. By law, they cannot make profits or advertise to attract low-risk, high-profit clients,” says a Washington Post article.

No Japanese citizen is denied medical coverage just because they have a pre-existing condition. And people don’t go bankrupt trying to get their sick family member a good treatment.

Healthcare costs

By law, everyone in Japan is required to take medical insurance. The country has more than 3,500 health insurance providers and eight health insurance systems, which are usually divided into two — National Health Insurance Schemes and Employees’ Health Insurance programs.

Most Japanese citizens are covered by the public health care insurance, which pays up to 70 percent of their medical costs. The remaining 30 percent is expected to be covered by the patients themselves.  However, if the cost of medical care is too high, the government can pay up to 90 percent of the cost. And as far as senior citizens are concerned, they only need to pay 10 percent of the medical costs by default, provided they are covered by the senior insurance program.

Most Japanese citizens are covered by the public health care insurance, which pays up to 70 percent of their medical costs. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

The medical fee for a citizen is calculated by taking into account their age and income. And even if a patient is uninsured, they can get their fee waived off if they have very low income. The insurance plans of the government cover multiple areas like hospital care, medications, physiotherapy, mental care, and so on.

Given that almost 90 percent of the health care costs of the elderly are borne by the state, one can argue that Japan is the best place to grow old. However, this has also resulted in a huge burden on the government. As of 2014, one in three Japanese was older than 60 years of age and about one-eighth were over 75 years.  The insurance premiums are also rising rapidly, adding to the burden of the government. As such, many experts believe that the excellent health care system that exists for the elderly in Japan may not last for long.   

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