Today I signed up for health insurance. At least, I think I did. When Lisa comes home from work tonight she will have to verify. She let me off my leash today, and these are the sorts of things that happen.
Japan is known to have the best healthcare system in the world. It is a system that America will never be able to duplicate mainly because of the greed inherit in the U.S. system.
In Japan, all hospitals are non-profit and costs are tightly regulated by the government. Still 80 percent of doctors offices are privately owned, so it is not socialized.
Of course, doctors’ salaries aren’t nearly as lucrative as in America, but I view this as a good thing. It means doctors have to be passionate about medicine and about helping people, not just some asshole trying to build a swimming pool or buy a fourth car.
Private insurance is available in Japan. It is either provided through the place of work, or you can buy cheaper, but more limited, insurance for yourself.
For everybody else, including me, there is the universal National Health Insurance plan, which is mandatory for everybody who is uninsured. Here are the basics:
* Monthly premiums for the average family is $280.
* Co-pays are 30 percent.
Already, you are like, woah, woah, that is freakin’ expensive! But wait a minute. It will start to make sense.
* Healthcare costs in Japan are drastically cheaper than in America. For instance, an MRI in the U.S. costs $1,500. An MRI in Japan costs $98. It costs $10 a night for a hospital stay. To stitch a cut less than 6 inches the cost is $4.30.
(If you thought the American healthcare system runs perfectly fine as it is, think again.)
* You can go to any doctor’s office you want, and they have to help you.
* Insurers cannot deny a claim.
* You get one free annual health check.
So basically, I am free to run around and get whatever disease I want, and it will get treated (with cheap homeopathic medicines with little side effects).
The process of obtaining said health insurance was a little more difficult, though it didn’t have to be. That’s just the way I role.
You sign up for health insurance at city hall, so I boarded the train bound for the Setagaya Ward Office. I got off at the wrong station, and had to wait 10 minutes for the next train. Of course it was hot as hell out and I forgot to bring my hanky to wipe the sweat (The Japanese carry a mini towel with them everywhere. They also use their hanky to dry their hands after using a public bathroom because there are no hand towels).
So anyway, I found the right office and they spoke very little English. They took my alien ID card and disappeared for a while. They finally came back, gave me a hand written note in Japanese and sent me to the next building.
At the next building, there was at least an English interpreter. She asked me if I was moving out of Japan.
“Oh, that’s what the note says. You moved in to Japan?”
“Yes, I need health insurance.”
“Oh, okay, fill out this form.”
I filled out the form, and they told me I needed to write down the head of household, which on my ID card lists Lisa. They asked me if I wanted to change my name to be the head of the household.
“No, Lisa is the head of the household.”
The two ladies helping me laughed very hard at this. I gave them a stern look. I haven’t given anybody a stern look since my sister’s dog tried to take my dinner out of my hand.
Finally, the paperwork was filled out and I had to sit and wait for about 15 minutes while they processed my information. Then they told me that I need to go back to the original building where I started, because really, they are the only ones that can help me. They handed me another hand-written note.
They couldn’t help me unless I want to usurp Lisa as the head of the household.
So off I went, back to building #1. Where they were very excited to see me. I handed them the note, and they began to apologize profusely.
From there it took a total of five minutes for my information to get processed and for them to hand me my health insurance card.
Leave it to me to make a 45 minute process (round trip) take 2 hours.
Also, I just have to share this video again. I love the fact that the intro is not related to the rest of the video in the least bit. I also love the fact that there dance moves aren’t even close to being in sync.