Thursday, March 12, 2009

Over 70? don't worry about paying for hospital fees

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 A. Dufour

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