Why Is Healthcare So Hard?

Public domain (CCO) image of Shane McGowan

Last year, I was involved in a car accident in which I’m lucky to have survived.  Both me and another car tried to merge into the same lane at the same time; our cars kissed on the side and then after bouncing off his car, I over corrected and went off the road and into an embankment, totaling the Ford Explorer I was driving, breaking two vertebrae and tearing my right rotator cuff.

This occurred on August 3rd.  I can’t comment on the service I received at the Emergency Room because I was in shock and totally out of it during my time there.  I don’t remember anything until my co-workers brought me home.

What makes this ‘blog-worthy’ is that I still haven’t closed the loop financially on my trip to the Emergency Room (ER).  My insurance company and the hospital are wrangling over something and I’m caught in the middle. Now, unless I pay out-of-pocket, the hospital will turn the matter over to a collection agency, which will impact my credit rating.

Why is health care in America so hard?  I don’t know much about it.  I lived in Japan for most of my adult life and the Japanese have a nationalized healthcare system that my family and I used that seemed to make a lot of sense. Because we were a low-income family, our insurance premium came to roughly $50 a month and a trip to the ER for the flu would cost us $20 and another $20 for our prescription drugs.

Another thing about their healthcare is how it’s set up.  Big mega-hospitals do exist but for most medical services, people visit neighborhood clinics to see a doctor.  And when I say neighborhood clinics, I mean that in the 17 years I lived in Japan, I was never outside of walking distance to a medical facility.  I didn’t plan that. The Japanese government did.  To me, it makes a lot of sense.

Four years ago, my son went down hard with a peanut allergy.  Because of the Japanese healthcare system, without calling an ambulance, I had him in front of a doctor in less than 10 minutes. We paid a little more in taxes to access this kind of healthcare, but we found it to be first rate.

Would the Japanese model work in America?  It’s hard to say.  Japan is far more urbanized than the U.S. but I do think the idea of more accessible healthcare to Americans is something we should pay for.

  • It would be expensive but Japan does it and they spend 8% of their GDP on healthcare.  The U.S. spends 15%.
  • Infant mortality rates in the U.S. stand at 6.8 per thousand births whereas in Japan , it is only 2.8.
  • The Japanese also are ahead of us in life expectancy at 82.1 years to the U.S.’s 77 and they own and operate almost double the amount of MRI machines per million person.

We’re spending more and getting less for our buck so obviously something needs to be looked at.

I don’t know if the Japanese model is the best.  I do know that it worked really well for my family from both a healthcare and an economic standpoint. And I know that all of my bills were cleared up that day — and not 6 months later.



  1. Harry Deshpande says

    I have had the pleasure *sic* of walking down the emeregency department of hospitals five countries so far. US ranks the last. What we have here is unbelievable.


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