Testing the Japanese Health Care System

Finally went and did something I've been meaning to do for a while now: get some prescription meds to kill off my acne issues. Here's my experience with Japan's health care system:

10:00 am: Walk into the clinic near campus, show them my national health insurance card, fill out a form, and sit down. There are about six people ahead of me, and the wait is about half an hour. For people not into waiting, they'll make Saturday appointments.

10:40 am: See the doctor, explain that I'm tired of the choice between acne and dry skin (from overusing over-the-counter meds).

10:50 am: Walk out of the clinic with a prescription for B-vitamins and antibiotics. Co-pay: $10. National health insurance covers about 70% of medical expenses, and the fee is dependent on your income. For a starving student like me, it's about $10/month.

11:00 am: Walk one block to the pharmacy, give them my prescription.

11:10 am: Walk out of the pharmacy with my medicine. The medicine cost another $11, but they also told me to bring my receipts to Waseda, because they do reimbursements for certain medical expenses.

This was a much nicer experience than I've had at school in Oregon, where my parents' (far more expensive) health insurance won't cover anything short of gunshot wounds unless I get it done in California.

NPR had an interesting story on the Japanese health care system back in April that corroborates my experience. From the user side, the health care system is great. However, doctors and hospitals have a hard time making ends meet because of the low prices.

So here's a country with the longest life expectancy, excellent
health results, no waiting lists and rock-bottom costs. Is anyone
complaining?

Well, the doctors are. Kono says he's getting paid peanuts for all his hard work.

If somebody comes in with a cut less than 6 square inches, Kono gets 450 yen, or about $4.30, to sew it up.

"It's extremely cheap," he says.

Kono
is forced to look for other ways to make a yen. He has four vending
machines in the waiting room. In a part of Tokyo with free street
parking, he charges $4 an hour to park at his clinic.

Full story (and audio) at NPR.org