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Published:February 8th, 2010 10:29 EST
Japanese Health Care

Minnesota Congressperson Attacks Japanese Health Care

By Geoff Dean

You have to give Michele Bachman, the Republican representing Minnesota`s 6th District in the US House of Representatives, some credit as a politician. Not much, but some. She recently attacked the Japanese Health Care System. It was "politically" wise in two ways; first, since Japan is used as an example of a sucessful "universal coverage" health care system by those who support "health care reform" in the US, attacking it is one way to discredit a similar plan for the US. Secondly, and surely most importantly, she assumes, probably correctly, that few voters are going to bother to check if what she said is true or not.

Japanese Health Care

 Ms. Bachman claimed that according to one American who had lived in Japan, "in Japan, to wait and get health care is almost impossible. You get on a list and wait and wait and wait."

 Not even bothering with the fact that this is all based on the comments of a single American who may or may not know diddly squat about Japan, the facts deserve to be checked out. If only there were some...

 First, I have lived in Japan for twenty years. I get health care as does my wife and two kids. It surprised me to find out that getting health care was "almost impossible." Wow, I`ve been here all these years and it must have just slipped by unnoticed.

 Far from impossible, it is remarkably easy. I have never had to "get on a list", nor do I have a clue what she is referring to. There is no "list" for health care in Japan; it is universal. As a matter of fact, children up to age 15, get ALL health care for free and there is a proposal to raise that age to 18. The elderly also get health care at greatly reduced rates.

 As for the waiting, there is some truth to that, if you mean waiting in a hospital waiting room. However, this has much more to do with the aging population of Japan than with the health care system. Strike Two!

 Ms. Bachman goes on to report that her American "source" has informed her that "people are afraid of voicing" complaints about the Japanese health care system. They might be put on "a list" and denied health care. (She seems to like lists.)

 In fact, people voice complaints about health care all the time. Waiting times are too long. Hospitals are inconvenient. Doctors don`t spend enough time with each patient. I have complained form time to time, myself. Still, all in all, people don`t "voice" complaints all that much, mainly because the system works pretty well. Furthermore, there is no system, legal or otherwise, for denying anyone coverage (universal, remember?) because of complaining or anything else. And no lists.

 Ms. Bachman wants to insinuate that in America, like Japan, people will be unable to complain about health care matters. Unfortunately, the Japan in question is a pure figment of her imagination. The health care system in Japan is not perfect, of course, but it is good and it is universal. People never have to choose between health care and other priorities. Is that why people in Japan live longer than anywhere else on earth? 

 Dear Ms. Bachman, as an American who greatly appreciates the quality, efficiency, convenience, and easy access that the Japanese health care system provides, I ask you to come up with some reasons that this could not work in the US. Please note, I said come up with, not make up. If you can, please feel free to continue your line of comments. If not, please feel no hesitation to, well, "clam up". And if you ever visit Japan, here`s hoping you get sick (just so you can experience the Japanese health care system, of course).