Voices in Japan
Voices in Japan
Jul 24, 2019
How Affordable is Japanese Healthcare?
Play • 46 min

Japan ranked 7th in the Bloomberg Health Care Efficiency Index in 2018. This index sought to rank countries that provided the most cost efficient medical care. Ben’s home country, the U.K., ranked 35th, whereas Burke’s, the U.S., was in 50th place. (Fees in Japan are controlled and set every two years based on negotiations between the Ministry of Health and JMA - the organization representing physicians.) This episode provides lots of information that most of you will find useful. Enjoy the show!

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Conversation Highlights:

  • There are two main types of health insurance, employer and national, with monthly premiums being approximately 5% of your income.
  • Most people do not have their own general practitioner in Japan, and it is therefore up to the patient to find a doctor or specialist for their specific illness/injury, which can be quite stressful.
  • Due to the very affordable cost of medical services, many Japanese people take advantage and use them for minor conditions, which is one of the reasons for the national health system becoming unsustainable.
  • Burke shares an experience of being in an ambulance.
  • call 110 for police emergencies.
  • 119 for ambulance/fire.
  • Emergency number for foreigners #7119 in Hokkaido (CAUTION: has not been tried!)
  • Ben shares his experience of going to the hospital because he thought he had the flu.
  • Flu shots/injections are common in Japan, but the shots are only effective for specific strains, so it is still possible to catch the flu after receiving a shot.
  • People are admitted to hospitals longer than usually required
  • The hospital food for inpatients is very healthy, nutritionally balanced and delicious.
  • Hospitals have to compete for business with some offering special services/perks such as massages and beauty therapy for women, or candle lit dinners for couples after giving birth.
  • For childbirth, the government distributes an allowance of approximately $4,000 dollars, so depending on the hospital, it is even possible to receive money back.
  • There is also a private supplementary health insurance option (approx. 2,000 yen a month for a person in his or her early 40s) which covers more procedures and reduces costs.
  • When people turn 40, everyone has to pay nursing/home care (Kaigo) insurance which is 2% of income.
  • Special life insurance is required when applying for bank loans to purchase a house or apartment.
  • When Burke first came to Japan, a language school he worked for put him on travel insurance, which can be considered illegal.
  • Although it is mandatory for everyone who resides in Japan for over three months to be enrolled in the health insurance system, it is said that approx. 10% of the population is not enrolled.
  • People who have not paid health insurance will be subject to a penalty of two to three years of back payments.
  • Japan has poor standards when it comes to healthcare for mental health issues.



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