Health Insurance and the Medical System

On May 20, I attended an event in Osaka featuring contemporary Cuban culture with an emphasis on the Cuban medical system. The day was divided in half. During the first part, we watched Michael Moore’s Sicko and a movie about Cuban agriculture. The movie Sicko deals with the American medical system and health insurance problem. I recommend seeing it.

The second film covers contemporary Cuban agriculture. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost most its ability to import chemical fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. Rather suddenly, the entire country shifted to organic agriculture with an emphasis on self-sufficiency including urban agriculture.

In the second part, we listened to a presentation by Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che Guevara. She spoke mainly about politics and the Cuban medical system. As I understand it, health care is free in Cuba.

After the event, I spoke with Lisa, a friend, about the medical and health insurance systems in the US and Japan. I’ve noticed that often the hospital stays in Japan are longer than in the US, in order of magnitude. For example, Lisa also tore her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and had a reconstruction within the past couple of years. She spent a month in the hospital, whereas I spent one night. This may be difficult to understand, even fathom, but her entire hospital bill came to almost 400,000 yen. That’s almost $4,000. It would be difficult to spend a day in an American hospital without running up a bill larger than that. But since she, like myself, is covered by the Japanese National Health Insurance System, she paid 160,000 yen. About $1,600.

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