• Tokyo


Not a day passes that I don’t hear about the critical situation of Japan’s national health insurance system. Mass media are likely to attribute the deterioration of the insurance system’s budget only to the graying of society, but there are other serious reasons.

The Japanese medical science industry has been dominated not so much by socialistic as by communistic ideas. Most medical treatments are administered and restricted by the health insurance system, which guarantees equal medical treatment for each citizen — regardless of how long one has paid insurance premiums — and standard workplaces for doctors. The Japanese take it for granted that they can get adequate medical treatment anywhere in Japan.

However, this system has a big loophole that has become an institutional problem. These days a lot of elderly people gather at hospitals to meet their friends and consult with doctors — which is beneficial for them and the doctors. As more than half of these expenses are paid for by taxpayers’ money and by corporate health insurance union subsidies, the elderly patients don’t have a feeling for how much money is actually spent on their hospital visits.

In a joke going around, an elderly group gets together, as usual, in a hospital waiting room before consulting with their doctor. One group member is absent that day, and an old man asks, “Where is Ms. Suzuki today?” Another replies, “She’s sick in bed and can’t come!” It’s just a joke, but it’s hard to laugh. We must carefully study which social security benefits are worthwhile and which are wasted.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

shuichi john watanabe

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