A popular “wide show” program on Fuji TV called “Miyane-ya” ran a segment Nov. 22 regarding the “improper use” of medical services by foreigners in Japan. However, as a foreigner living in Japan paying my fair share of medical fees, I found major flaws with their presentation of “the facts.”

First, throughout their discussion they made almost no distinction when referring to treatment costs for tourists and visa holders. It muddied the waters, portraying all foreigners as abusing the system no matter their status while in Japan. More to this point, almost all of their evidence was based on extreme cases. They spoke about a man who used insurance to pay for his extended family’s medical expenses, making use of a loophole in the system. The numbers presented were often taken out of context. For example, a seemingly large number of cases where foreigners received expensive treatments after only paying insurance fees for six months actually represented a tiny fraction of overall similar cases.

Medical professionals interviewed for the segment correctly stated that the laws and systems regarding payment for services rendered at hospitals needs improvement. The program MC and panelists, on the other hand, spent the segment focusing on the “scandalous” state of affairs rather than possible solutions. Only one panelist seemed unbiased, consistently pointing out when things were not being put into proper context. The din created by the others, however, immediately steered the discussion back to the “extreme,” drowning out her logic.

The program, in its most irresponsible move, failed to provide a single foreign panelist. With Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn’s recent arrest making headlines, I’m afraid this kind of anti-foreigner sentiment plays right into the hands of far-right conservatives. Foreigners behaving “badly” should be punished, after all.


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.

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