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Paying less for morePosted Monday, June 4, 2012, at 3:23 PM
In the U.S., we like things large - fast-food orders, homes, cars, waistlines, and not surprisingly, our healthcare costs.
Last Thursday, a three-year study of 13 industrialized nations' spending on healthcare was released. The U.S. topped the list, spending $8,000 per person on health services, more than any other country on the list, including Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden or Switzerland (it should be noted these countries have some sort of universal or nationalized health care systems).
With $2,878 spent per person, Japan is last on the list, due to its national, government-sponsored health insurance system, known as kokumin kenko houken.
While health insurance is mandatory, denying coverage based on prior health history is illegal. Premiums for families are affordable, typically under $300 per month, with employers often covering at least half.
Plans that cover basic care for workers and families are not allowed to make profits. If year-to-year carryover is sizeable, premium rates decrease.
Health care-related costs are also extremely affordable. Need a couple of stitches? $5. Overnight hospital stay? $10. Ambulance ride and emergency room visit? $150.
"Rather than containing costs by restricting access, Japan instead sets health care prices to keep total health spending within a budget allotted by the government," the study stated.
The seemingly well-oiled system does have some major shortfalls: privately-owned hospitals and clinics operating at a loss, overworked healthcare professionals, mass shortages of specialized doctors and sometimes, limited access to rural hospitals and clinics due to the country's limited number of physicians.
While the Japanese healthcare system is far from flawless, it does provide its citizens with affordable premiums and coverage, something politicians should take note of as they squabble over the Affordable Care Act in Washington.
The U.S.'s health insurance system has become a tangled, confusing mess full of loopholes and asterisk marks. It makes little sense to me to pay thousands of dollars a year for a high-deductible premium when most clinics and hospitals will offer cheaper prices if an individual opts against applying his or her insurance.
The Act is far from perfect, but is perhaps a step in the right direction to curb out-of-control health care costs and eliminate coverage discrimination for individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
Even our own congressman from Storm Lake is confused, claiming that pre-existing conditions are something created by far-left political agendas.
Japanese insurers are a lot more accommodating than their American counterparts. For one thing, they can't deny a claim. And they have to cover everybody.
It seems rather backwards for healthy individuals to spend $20,000 per year for a so-so health insurance policy with a four-digit deductible that they are unlikely to ever meet.
However, the study does fail to mention the U.S. provides top quality care. The worldwide-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is proof of that.
Superior care for the money? Well, it depends on what type of services you might be seeking. With the myraid of nationalities that seek care at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, it is clear that the U.S. does have leading doctors.
When going to Mayo Clinic for a day's worth of appointments, a five-numbered bill will arrive in the mail, conveniently giving the receiver a mild heart attack until they discover insurance has not been applied. So-so insurance that costs $10,000 per year will whittle the bill down to a mid-range four-digit number.