The Japanese Medical System

The Japanese Medical System

Japanese Mother-Infant Health Handbook.

The heated health care debate in the United States has led policy makers to examine health care systems abroad, bringing Japan’s universal system into focus. Japan’s health care system is often credited for playing a key role in contributing to its population’s good health, long life expectancy, and low infant mortality rate. Some of the notable differences of Japan’s system from the US include its compulsory nature, the absence of competition among insurers due to government set reimbursement rates, and the ability of patients to choose medical providers freely. The Washington Post provides in-depth information about the Japanese health care system as a part of its feature on US health care reform. A review of the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese system within the context of the debate in the US can also be found in this article from the New York Times.

Although Japan’s health care system is often praised for its strengths, sustainability is becoming an issue due to an increasing population of senior citizens and a shortage among young workers. The newly elected Democratic Party of Japan is considering a wide variety of policies to face this challenge. This article from the Japan Times covers the party’s intent to reform health insurance for seniors.

Looking at the positive and negative aspects of Japan’s health care system provides an opportunity to understand the argument between free-market and publicly-funded systems currently taking place in the US. Students can identify certain characteristics of Japan’s health care system as appropriate or inappropriate for the US.

Overview of the Japanese Medical System:

New York Times : Prescriptions Blog - Making Sense of the Health Care Debate
August 25, 2009
Looking at the Japanese health care system within the context of the US debate in Q&A format

The Washington Post: Japan’s Health-Care System Has Many Advantages, but May Not Be Sustainable
September 7, 2009
An extensive overview of the Japanese health care system

CNN Video Clip : Japanese health care

Health Care Issues
The graying population in Japan is one of the most pressing social and economic issues today. The government is thinking of a wide variety of policies, including health insurance programs for the elderly:

The Japan Times: Cabinet moving to demolish LDP policies
September 18th, 2009
Outlines the DPJ’s plan to abolish previous policies by the LDP, including an unpopular health insurance program for senior citizens

BBC: One-in-four Japan women 'elderly'
September 21, 2009
Figures of the aging Japanese population

The Japan Times Editorial: Health Care for Older Seniors
October 1, 2009
Analyzing the abolishment of an unpopular health care program for seniors in Japan

The Japan Times: Brace for a Possible Spring Shock
September 29, 2009
Regarding the enrollment in health insurance by foreigners in Japan

The Japan Times Editorial: Japan’s health care as a model
September 20, 2009
Article on the US health care reform for comparison:

Shortage of Doctors an Obstacle to Obama Goals
April 26, 2009
Regarding the expected shortage of doctors under the US health care reform, a problem encountered by the Japanese health care system

Possible thought questions for students:

List three advantages and three disadvantages of the Japanese health care system.

What was the intent of the health insurance program for seniors?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a free-market and publicly-funded health care system? How do the different systems affect medical providers and patients? Use and compare specific examples from the US and Japan.

Can the Japanese health care system be applied to the US? What are some aspects that are appropriate or inappropriate for the US?

Do certain health care systems benefit different groups?  Explain your answer.

If you were a patient, in which country would you rather be?  Why?  What factors, such as gender, age, or health status, might change your answer?