Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lining up for Great Care in Japan

I have been in Japan for 1 1/2 years and have had nothing but positive experiences with their universal healthcare system. When I got sick with a sinus infection last year for the first time, I went to see a foreign trained doctor that does not take Japanese health insurance. I was given a bill for over $250 that I submitted to my medical insurance company in the United States. I have never heard back from the insurance company about my claim although I know that it would have been excluded or applied toward my deductible anyway. The doctor had not given me antibiotics even though I needed them. I suffered for a few weeks until I got better. A couple months later, I became ill with the same symptoms and this time I went to a Japanese clinic that was recommended to me by a friend. It was a modern facility that most Americans would be impressed with. It was very efficient with me lining up to sign in, me lining up to see the ears, nose and throat
specialist, me lining up to have my airways cleared by a ventilator, me lining up to pay and me lining up to get my medicine including expectorant, antihistamines, and antibiotics. The doctor spoke fluent English, it cost around $20 which included the medicine and took about one hour with no paper work to do or bills to pay later.

Next time I went to the same clinic to see someone about a uninary tract infection. I had no appointment and lined up that morning at the front desk where I was asked what my problem was. Soon thereafter, I was told to line up outside the specialist's office. I had another positive experience and it took a total of about one hour and cost less than $20 which included medicine and a lab test.

In October, I had a routine gynecological check up and I felt the equipment used was of a much higher caliber than in the United States with a robotic motorized table that rotated so that I would not have to scoot down to put my legs in the stirrups and the use of ultrasound to look for the presence of tumors - the was a routine procedure. Again, my doctor spoke English fluently and the care was superb. It cost around $15.

Then I saw a dentist recently for a chipped tooth and cleaning and it was covered as well under universal healthcare in Japan. The dentist has a PhD in the United States, during the cleaning the dental hygenist used an ultrasound descaler which made it much less painful, and I was charged $30. Can't beat that.

We are now in a position that we are thinking of not returning to the United States to live because of the cost of medical insurance and care since we are getting older and the cost of private medical insurance after retirement and prior to qualifying for Medicare will be prohibitive. I never thought that the USA, the land of plenty and the greatest country in the world would have an citizen like me who now must choose to not return to her homeland in order to receive better and less expensive healthcare.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great stories. I'm also worried about returning to the US, even though I'd very much like to go back, simply because the health care situation is so unpredictable (unlike in Japan where I don't think twice about it).

I find the system to be affordable, transparent & very easy to use. My friends in America complain that their care is the exact opposite.