Sep 052007

Alright, I broke my promise. Rather than writing frequent, small, unproofread posts I’ve gone and done the exact opposite – I went a month without writing anything, leaving myself with so much to catch up on that I just ended up avoiding it altogether. But now that I’m (almost) caught up, I’m gonna try to get back into the groove once again.

To start off, last week I went for my first dental checkup in Japan. It’s no big secret that the healthcare system in America is absolutely repulsive, yet this is not something I was ever fully aware of…until I experienced the universal healthcare system of a foreign country. Here’s how my recent visit went:

Justin: Hey, I need to get my teeth cleaned…what should I do?
Coworker: Just pop into some dentist nearby. There’s one a block or two down the street that I go to sometimes.
J: Do they accept our company’s health insurance?
C: …huh?
J: Nevermind, I’ll check it out.

…Lunchtime, at the dentist office…
Justin: I need to get my teeth cleaned. Can I schedule an appointment please?
Receptionist: Sure, when would you like to come in?
J: Pretty much anytime is fine.
R: How about 5pm today?
J: Um, wow. I was thinking like, anytime 2 months from now. Any openings after today?
R: Can you do 4pm Thursday (the day after tomorrow)?
J: Definitely. Here’s my health insurance card; how much will a checkup and cleaning cost?
R: About 8 bucks. Do you want X-Rays too?
J: …Crap, I haven’t had X-Rays in 2 years…but I’m not about to lay down $300 for that…
J: How much extra will that be?
R: 10 bucks.
J: …!?!? Um, sure!

…Thursday at 4:00pm…
Receptionist: Justin? Please have a seat and the dentist will call you shortly.

…Thursday at 4:02pm…
Hot Young Dentist like on Cinemax at Midnight: J..J..Jusuteen Kurainn-sama?
J: Yep!
HYDloCaM: Purreeese camu here.
J: I speak Japanese.
HYDloCaM: Oh, okay. Right this way.

…30 minutes later…
HYDloCaM: Everything looks good; here’s your free toothbrush, and please remember to come back in 6 months!

…bows politely and holds it until I’m outside the door…

All this for the monthly insurance premium of $0. Oh, but wait, that’s a bit unfair – I think my company actually covers the premiums for me. Back when I was a student at Ritsumeikan I had to bear the whole financial burden myself.

$13 a month.

So, explain to me again why my stepdad pays close to $900/mo for the family’s insurance and it still costs $100 or more just to get into a dentist’s office? And why I have to book appointments months in advance, yet they still make you wait 30 minutes to an hour before your appointment even begins?

In all honesty, last week’s checkup wasn’t quite as thorough as some I’ve had in the past – but after discussing it with a few friends I’m pretty sure that had to do with the specific dentist, not the Japanese system in general. Some things over here are truly so slow and inefficient that it just boggles the mind. But healthcare is definitely not one of them.

Thanks, National Healthcare!

(Note: The free annual physical I received several months ago provided a similar experience…in and out with virtually no wait and utmost efficiency and politeness. One week later I got a full report with everything from blood pressure to cellular protein levels. My protein was abnormally high. I guess they don’t get too many Americans who import overseas weightlifting supplements at the Osawa Health Clinic in Kyoto.)

  9 Responses to “Sicko”

  1. What is nice is between your time at Rits and my time at Meiji Gakuin, students can now get on the Japanese National Health Insurance. I just signed up for it yesterday. Automatic 70% off all medical bills – including dental. Not too shabby for 1,000 – 2,000 yen / month.

  2. Wow. Talk about a timely post. I’m looking to go to the dentist soon as well. Here’s hoping there’s universal hotness standards country-wide.

  3. hahah….Similar to China. My Dental visits without insurance are less than $10, I never make an appointment, and find the quality to be quite acceptable. I have never gotten the Cinemax dentist, but I think that in China that is probably not going to happen 🙁

  4. I can, having been a long suffering patient of Crohn’s disease, kidney stones, shingles, and more other nefarious diseases that you can shake a stick at, say UNEQUIVOCALLY, that the health care system in America is so far greater than that of Japan that it is almost unbelievable. The thought of having to step into another Japanese doctor’s office or hospital here is so terrifying to me (despite the fact that I have spent a significant amount of my life in such places), that I have been refusing to go, though I absolutely need to.

    Hell, when I went to get a cavity filled I had to go 4 separate times. Sure, it may have cost me $22, but the torture room they did the procedure in was stomach churning.

    I’m glad you got your teeth taken care of, but I would rather burn a hospital down here than let another of their butchers attempt their “medicine” on me again.

  5. there ARE health insurance plans that aren’t ridiculous…for instance my healthcare costs about $200 a month, which is a lot, BUT almost everything is not that much. Blood work, any dr appt, any lab tests, any extra things, etc, are all covered 100% after I pay between $10-25 dollars. That’s it.

    But yes, it would be awesome if we had universal health care, lol.

  6. No healthcare system is perfect, but there is a lot to be said for being able to see a doctor no matter what your income — even if you have to wait in line. I can’t believe how much I pay for insurance every month, and on the rare occasion when there’s a small charge I have to fight them for months to cover it! It’s inexcusable.

  7. Universal health care sounds great, as long as the QUALITY of that care stays the same. Japanese doctors have a quota of patients that they have to see each day if they work in a hospital. It can range from 80 – 100 patients during a single shift. That business and complete lack of focus on individual patient care is a huge part of the reason that I ended up paying over $1400 to get a single medicine that I needed to prevent surgery, though I was told something completely different.

    Wanting to be a doctor affects my opinion on this matter a lot, and if anyone has any questions about the specific differences between level of care/cost, etc. please let me know. Let’s informing each other!

  8. James: Actually the $13 a month I mentioned is the same National Health Insurance you’re referring to…cuz $13 is right between 1,000-2,000 a month 😉 The coverage has actually gotten slightly worse since I was a student – it used to be 80%.

    S-$: Let me know. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for u!

    Andy: Yeah, the difference tho is that in China everything’s cheap vs in Japan everything’s overpriced…so $10 in Japan is WAAAYYY less than $10 in China. Still, in either case it’s nice to not have to pay an arm and a leg to stay healthy.

    Dylan: I agree that the healthcare here probably isn’t as good, and my experiences is severely limited since I virtually never go to hospitals (actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been). Still, it just seems pitiful how much we have to pay to stay healthy/alive in the US. It would be interesting to see the quality of healthcare in, ya know, every other Western country which has Universal Healthcare (Canada, for example).

    Jeff: What plan is that?? Sounds shady to me (although $200 is still pretty freaking ridiculous, really…and can you go to any doctor/hospital you want?)

    Sempre Libera: Thankfully I’ve never had to deal with a health insurance company claim (yet). I realize that Michael Moore’s films are extremely one-dimensional and biased, but even so, resolving issues with those companies seems to be in his mind the worst aspect of the US’s current profit-based system…

    Dylan: Quotas in almost any situation are retarded IMHO. Like how US police officers have a quota of how many tickets they have to give out, so they end up hiding by stopsigns giving BS tickets when there are much more serious real crimes to be dealt with. Just because 10 people broke the law today doesn’t mean there’s some minimum number who will do so every single day! Geez.

  9. Justin, did you watch Sicko?

    The reason that American healthcare is so expensive is that decades ago around the time that other developed nations were setting up national healthcare systems, the US was intentionally setting up for-profit health maintenance organizations that function as brokers of medical services.

    National healthcare would be an improvement over the current mess, but ONLY if HMOs, and the various laws and regulations that support their existence, are done away with.

    National health care may be created in the US, but it is not going to save you and me any money unless the HMOs are also disbanded – which is not going to happen because of lobbying and the fact that congress is so impotent that there are still laws from 1897 on the books that do things like impose extremely small taxes to support “the dispersal of new technologies, including the telephone…”

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