13 February 2010

Japanese Health Care FTW

Today I had an experience which, while it's normal here, is inconceivable in the US. For those of you who still hold the delusion that the US has a functional health care system, wake up.

Last night I realized I needed to get some more contacts because I was almost out. So today I went to the contact store (no appointment, no calling ahead). They asked me about my order and then, because this was only the second time I had bought from them, told me I had to get my eyes re-checked (normally, you only need to get your eyes re-checked once a year, similar to the US).

Now, if I was in the US, first of all the eye doctor would probably be somewhere else than the contact lens store, and secondly, getting an appointment at my eye doctor in the US meant calling a week ahead -- or three weeks ahead if you want a Saturday appointment, since today was a Saturday.

However, here in Japan, they just said, "Go to the 5th floor." I went to the 5th floor where the nice receptionists took a look at my insurance card (health insurance is mandatory in Japan btw), and asked me to wait. I waited about 3 minutes, had my vision checked by an assistant, took my contacts out, waited another three minutes, had the actual eye doctor check my retinas and other things, waited another about 5 minutes (while watching the Olympics) and got a new pair of contacts. Total time: 20 minutes; co-pay: 380 yen (about 4 dollars).

Then, back downstairs to buy the contacts. Now, you would think the price for all this convenience would be that the actual contacts are more expensive. And you would be wrong. My contacts cost about 20% less than 1-800-contacts did back in the US.

My fellow Americans: your health care system is f*&%ed. Please get on with fixing it. It doesn't have to be like this, and the solution *does* have to involve the government.