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?
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?
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.)