Monday, November 8, 2010

Ryan Vs. The Japanese Health Care System

By now all of yall know I really don`t like socialized health care. I have experienced it first hand and while there are some advantages, the negatives make it an overall raw deal. None the less, this is what I have to deal with in order to live in Japan. I pay for the National Heath Care insurance every month like a good little slave. Considering that I am paying for it as I might as well get something out of it from time to time. Well, my dearest wife has been nagging me to get a `health check` for about two months with the wonderful reason of, `You are 30 now so there is risk you might get sick and die.` While I really doubt my days are numbered at 30 the gal sees things very differently. To make her happy, and shut her up about it, I scheduled myself a trip to the hospital for a `health check.`

As you might have guessed, a `health check` in Japan is a bit different from what you would expect in the states. First of all, I had to go to a annex of the main hospital. That was a little odd but no biggie. When I finally got to the section I needed I felt like I had just walked into a mad house. There were gals in cute uniforms running around leading people to a variety of rooms for all the different tests to be carried out. There were people(mostly old as dirt) sitting in the waiting area looking at each other with uncomfortable expressions. The admins at the front desk were cold and all business. I thought about doing something funny in an attempt to get a smile out of them but they would most likely had none of it. They simply checked my paperwork, informed me of the price(26,000 yen! So much for socialized care), gave me a key to a locker so I could change, and told me to wait. Oddly enough the motherfuckers charged me for the damn medical outfit I had to change into for the `health check.` From the get go I felt like I was getting scammed!

After about 20 min. my name was called, correctly oddly, and the gauntlet began. Apparently, Japan must have a lack of general practice doctors because every section of the test required a different doctor. I personally thought it was a huge waste of money to have that many doctors to perform a simple health check. I must have got poked and prodded by at least 12 different so-called `specialist.` Socialized health care must be sucking the Japanese government dry. A general practice doctor could have almost done everything it took 12 doctors to do. Hell, it took three people to just take a blood sample, check my height and ask me a few basic lifestyle questions! The amount of people getting in on taking the Japanese government for a ride is amazing sometimes.

I would have not minded the scam happening right before my eyes so much if they had not been so damn out in the open about it. The whole ordeal went down along one long ass hallway with rows of small rooms on each side. In each room one small part of the `health check` was completed. In between checks you were ordered to set down on a kind of comfortable green sofa. Every Japanese I sat down next to stared at me harder than usual. It may have been the first time any of them saw a gaijin getting a health check. Such a fact would not be surprising considering most of the big employers of westerners do not offer a health care plan. The national coverage is a bit out of price range for your average gaijin to afford. It would have been nice to have a buddy with me because it was super awkward having a gang of old people wearing ugly green hospital gear staring at me with odd expressions glued on their faces.

To be fair, one of the bright moments was being lead to the next room by a cute early 20 something gal wearing a cute checked outfit. They had entire team of these gals assisting every single person to their next room. it was surreal to say the least. It was like being on some Japanese game show from hell, `Okay folks! Our next lucky player will take the liquid metal in your stomach/fun with X-rays challenge!`

Seriously, I am not joking about liquid metal being involved in the whole ordeal! At one point in the `health check` I went into a X-ray room. I have gotten plenty of X-rays in my life but nothing prepared me for a Japanese style X-ray. When I went into the X-ray room I was greeted by the muscular looking man holding a cup of scary looking thick liquid. He smiled and said to me. `Please drink this whole cup of Barium so I can check your stomach and intestines` My first reaction was of course, `What the fuck! I am not drinking that! We use Barium for rat poison in the states!` He did not care that Barium is rat poison and I ended up having to drink a whole cup of that shit!` After I forced myself to drink it he made me hold onto a rotating bed while he got a few live shots of my guts. I felt like pure shit the rest of the day. Matters were made worse by the fact that he also instructed to me take two very strong laxatives to get the Barium out of my system. I thought I would be strong and not shit my pants before making it home. Well, these were pretty strong laxatives and I only made it three stations before the shit in my ass could not wait any longer. I rushed off the train at Akiba station and right into a bathroom at the platform. I suffered though 40 minutes of explosive diarrhea before I was able to walk again.

After finally being able to transfer from JR to TX I must have been the most happy person you could ever see on a damn Tokyo train. It just felt good knowing that I would soon be safe in my home. I am sure that some of the folks on the train noticed that I had just survived a rough morning. It was kind of written all over my face. I remember sitting there thinking that I left the hospital feeling worse than when I arrived. A `health check` has got to be one of the strangest experiences I have had in Japan so far.

I really cannot blame the Japanese for this wasteful and inefficient system. The government and greedy health care industry must take the lion share of the blame for a such a money sucking system. Yeah, I got a pretty full on `health check` but at the same time I was over charged and way too many doctors poked and prodded me. It will be a long ass time before I do that again!        


blogspot said...

Love it! I guess I'm luckey as my employer provides health care and pays for the yearly checkups. In fact everyone in the office treats it as a free day off, nothing more, nothing less. As you go every year you will get a running tally of the last three visits on the sheet so you can compare year to year. I consistantly get called a fat bastard even though I would be one skinny dude in America.

TheGhost said...

If your company is paying for it I wonder if they are getting a kick back for their efforts.

J said...

Was going to comment, the real scam here is having to work full-time and not getting full-time benefits like proper health care/your employer paying for your yearly checkup (ningen dock). That should be standard.

As for the wastefulness factor, hell, that's nothing new -- how many times you walk past a construction site with five guys doing nothing and three with flags to wave you along? Me, more times than I can count...

Damn funny blog entry, though. You get any gawks for speaking Japanese?