The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
I prefer a social health insurance system, like Japan’s, Britain’s or Canada’s to a free-market system like what they have in America because I think it is abhorrent to have something as important as health care entrusted to a capitalist corporation. Government run public health systems have their problems, but when problems occur I know the local parliamentarian’s constituency office address and I can complain directly to a culpable person, a person responsible for the administration of the system, not some unknown, faceless business executive at an HMO. So long as governments tax us and take our money they are shouldering a heavy responsibility: anyone who takes my money owes me. They become my employee and our relationship is changed dramatically. I pay all my taxes and appropriate expenses in my life in Japan, and in return I expect maximum benefit.
Doctors and nurses are at the grass roots of the social health system and as such they are first in the firing line of public ire (“Hospitals worried by patient behavior,” September 4, 2007). I would not say that anyone “deserves” harassment or verbal abuse. But as public servants they are in the same boat as teachers, librarians, fire and police officers, city workers, federal politicians, etc. They are the employees of the users / patients. If employers are dissatisfied with the performance of their employees, they get angry, they reprimand them and sometimes even fire them. When I sit in a Japanese out-patient waiting room for more than three hours just for a ten-minute consult to have a prescription renewed I am justly angry. It is akin to robbery, because I could have been working and earning money during that time and both my time and my money are stolen from me for insufficient reason. It’s only natural for people’s anger to exceed their endurance.
But I could be wrong.