Saturday, March 1, 2008

All people under 6 and over 70 have 100% coverage...

As a young American woman in Japan 30 years ago I remember commenting to my husband, an M.D., on the reason for the longevity of women in Japan. At the time, the life expectancy was 83 for women and 79 for men. Japanese women outlived, not only Japnesse men, but as a national group had the longest life expectancy in the world. I said that it must be due to the diet. He corrected me immediately saying that it was the health care system. Recently I was even better able to understand the meaning of this. My friend and former Japanese language teacher who had not been feeling well was hospitalized for tests. They did a 24 hour electrocardiogram on her saying that the usual 15 minute one was not enough. She was told that during the night her heart had stopped beating for six seconds and that had this happened during the day while she was up and around rather than lying in bed, it would have been a massive heart attack. She had to have open heart surgery. In order to do this they had to open up the chest cavity by forcing her ribs to open. Then they took the heart out and inserted a mechanical valve inside one of the main arteries. There were three surgeons in attendance and it took more than four hours. She had to stay in hospital for a whole month. And of course she had visits to the doctor afterwards. She's fine now. The doctors said she went through it well because, although she was 71 years old, all her other internal organs were in good health. They also commented on her positive outlook as a factor in her recovery. The total cost of all of this was 1,800,000 yen, which comes out to almost $17,000. In Japan all people under six and over seventy have 100% medical coverage. We have a national health care system here. This means that in old age you don't have to worry about where the hospital expenses are going to be coming from.

Dorothy Dufour

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