Tuesday, May 20, 2008

National Health Care--No wait, easy sign up, cheap

In praise of universal coverage

The issue of health care is front and center these days due in large part to Michael Moore's new film. His documentary, "Sicko" shines a light on a dysfunctional health care system that does more to serve the interests of for-profit insurers than it does for the average American citizen. One of the most absurd features of the US for-profit health care system is denying someone access to treatment or a procedure based on a pre-existing condition.

I recall trying to explain the concept of pre-existing condition to a friend from another country. This person could not fully grasp the concept as applied to health care because in his reality it did not exist - a reality where every citizen has access to high quality and affordable medical and dental care and would never be denied treatment based on past treatment, or a present medical condition - isn't that when people would most need care - to treat a present medical condition? Of course it is.

I am privileged to be able to share a view on this issue as a resident of a country that has an excellent universal heath care system, and thankfully NO pre-exisiting condition exclusions. In Japan, where I work and live, I am fully covered under a comprehensive universal coverage scheme through my city office. The process of enrolling was straightforward and painless. I presented myself at the city office, answered a few questions regarding visa status (I hold a work visa), last year's income in Japan (I had none as I had been in the US) and then I waited for a few minutes. The clerk came back with a new health insurance certificate for my family and informed me that I would receive my insurance premium invoice in a few weeks.

Sure enough, in a few weeks I received my insurance premium invoice in the mail. The annual premium was approximately $300.00 US dollars. I had to look again and confirm this with a Japanese friend - there was no mistake. I had the option of paying in ten installments or in a lump sum. At that premium I opted to take care of it all at once and viola, our health insurance was paid up for a year. Of course, our premiums were nominal due to not having any income to report in Japan for the previous year; this year they are higher but still much lower (around $230.00 per month for two people) than what I would pay for a private policy for my family in the US - another excellent feature of this plan is that the premium also includes long-term care insurance for adults over the age of 40.

There is nothing like the feeling of security that comes from knowing that when necessary, you and your family have access to affordable medical and dental treatment. Having been without such coverage in the US and having experienced the accompanying anxiety, I feel fortunate to be able to participate in a system that is, unfortunately, and sadly, out of reach for 47 million Americans, many of whom are children.

Seattle, Washington

See the original post here

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