Every society is affected by any national changes or new movement introduced; therefore, an issue one may think is unrelated to his environment can very well affect him through chains of cause and effect.
Health care is an immediate issue that concerns all of us. We all experience it and need it. Let’s serious ask ourselves if the current health care system is satisfactory and available to everyone. Should health, medicare and treatments be available to only selected groups? Many people are voting for the presidential candidate who can restore the present health care system or who can pioneer a better healthcare distribution for our country. Personally, I hope to see a change that health care is available and affordable to everyone.
Being able to receive basic health care is a fundamental need of all people. Fulfilling this fundamental need makes people feel secured, and it makes sense that people with better health can contribute more to the society. A realistic and reachable standard of health should be set for all people. This effort needs a non profit driving entity to establish and to maintain it. People’s life and health should not be compromised for the profit of few organizations.
Before moving to Japan, I was covered under my parents’ insurance policy in the United States. Their policy covered children of the family until the age of twenty-four. Upon graduating from university, I moved to Japan and started my first job there. I joined the Japanese national health insurance through the company I worked for. There are basically two types of health insurance in Japan: national health insurance and employer-sponsored health insurance. Usually, under employer sponsored insurance, the insurance premium is calculated according to income, number of dependents, and the company’ subsidies. For someone who is self-employed or unemployed, the national health insurance costs a minimum of 13300 yen, or about $110 per month plus a small percentage of income for those who are self-employed. In other words, everyone can get insurance from around $100 dollars a month. Unlike the Medicaid program in the U.S. which is only available to certain low-income groups with specific requirements for eligibility, the Japanese health insurance is available to every citizen and legal residents. There is a ceiling to what the Japanese National insurance covers, but it covers all the basics and beyond.
In most cases in Japan, patients choose their doctor and hospital. There is no limitation to the doctors or hospital they can visit. This is a true competition among the clinics, hospitals, and medical practitioners, not for profit, but for quality. The same insurance that people have in Japan gives them the freedom to get second opinions and naturally eliminates those doctors whose practices are in question. The doctor visits, treatments, and medicine are not free; one is responsible for thirty percent of their medical bills. Japanese health costs are much lower than the costs in the United States. Thirty percent of the medical bill is still a reasonable amount one can afford. There are also special cases or categories of illness for which the insurance would give more coverage. If one is late on his payment, his insurance will not automatically be invalid. The insurance will still cover the person as long as he makes up the missed payments. After all, some people do run into difficulties in life at one point or another. Sounds to good to be true? Well, It’s real.
Taiwan, a place with no world recognition politically, has one of the top public health care system in the world. After moving to Taiwan due to my husband’s transfer a year a go, I learned and appreciated the system where universal or national health care is available to all more than ever. When speaking of universal, national, or pubic health insurance, people often turn their attention to the well-debated and discussed health care system in Canada. There are those whose views are negative, claiming that the medical service in a single-payer insurance system may not perform at its ultimate, and those whose views are positive, saying that they do not live in fear of ever having to face bankruptcy for outrageous medical bills. From my informal inquiries, more Canadian I came across favor their national health care system. Most of those who favor their national health care system commented that people of Canada are more secured in having their basic physical and psychological needs met.
In Taiwan, there is also government-sponsored universal health care for not only their citizens but also for foreign residents who live in Taiwan. Foreign residents can apply for the government-sponsored insurance after proving their legal status of residing in Taiwan. The insurance fee starts from the basic 600NT, or around $18 a month. For people in higher income brackets, their insurance is calculated based on a percentage of their income over the 600Nt. Fees are waived for retired soldiers, those who are physically challenged, and people who have economic disadvantages.
Interestingly, Taiwan’s national health insurance has only been established for little more than two decades, since 1985. The government policy-makers studied health care system from different foreign countries and composes the first Taiwan national health care from the ideas and methods of the system of other countries. It was said that Taiwan’s national insurance system is like a completed puzzle made from pieces of which fit its country and people. This insurance now covers the entire population, including foreign legal residents. According to research funded by Taiwan’s National Health Research and Taiwan’s Bureau of National Health Insurance, the cost of health care did not rise after the universal coverage was established (Jui-Fen & Hsiao, 2003.) What does that tell us?
A basic health care program can greatly reduce the consequences of illness left untreated. Basic health care does not mean free of charge or mindless spending without control. To build a healthy nation, we should take a closer look at the current U.S. health insurance. After all, a sound nation starts with the health of its people.
The writer is a Chinese-American. After graduating from Queens College, New York, she moved to Japan and started teaching English as second language. In the 15years of living in Japan, she became a wife, a mother and a university lecturer. She continued her education after giving birth to her daughter and is now pursuing her ph.d in education. She is a positive person who is always looking forward to challenging new things. In Japan, many friends and students were affected by her words and encouragement, especially women. Using herself as examples, she encourages women to be a life time learner, open minded and to have self confidence. Now she is temporarily residing in Taiwan with her family.