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Health care policies vary throughout the world and depending what your thoughts on health care, you may prefer one country over another. In this series of blogs, I am studying different health care policies around the world. Last month, I took a look at Luxembourg who has a highly rated health care system. This month, I’m diving into Japan who also has highly ranked health care policies. Let see how these two top countries compare!


Universal Care

Japan is home to 127 million citizens who have the longest life expectancy of any country in the world, which may be due (at least in part) to the country’s universal health care. Generally speaking, health care is provided free for all citizens as well as non-Japanese citizens staying in Japan who meet insurance standards. Those who meet the coverage criteria must enroll in one of two government insurance plans based on age, employment status, and place of residence. While there are many insurance companies, they can be categorized into one of the two government insurance plans: the National Health Insurance and Employees’ Health Insurance. Those who fail to enroll or maintain their enrollment in either of these plans could be forced to pay up to two years worth of premiums when they re-enroll.

According to the Washington Post, a Japanese citizen visits the doctor 14 times on average in a single year. The standard of health care treatment in Japan is high and has excellent hospitals and clinics. This high-quality care is regulated by national and local governments who are required by law to ensure that health care providers are providing high-quality medical care. Hospitals, by law, must be run as non-profit and be managed by physicians.  


Private Insurance

Most of Japan’s citizens hold some form of private health insurance although they already receive government-funded care. Private insurance in Japan plays a supplementary role to the public insurance, typically in the manner of life insurance or additional income in case of sickness. Additional income from private insurance can be issued, usually in a lump sum, when insured citizens are hospitalized or diagnosed a specified chronic disease, such as cancer.  



Those who are enrolled in public insurance have to pay a 30 percent co-pay for services and goods received. However, children up to the age of 6 and adults over the age of 70 pay discounted fees. The government pays the remaining 70 or so percent of costs. Patients can select physicians or facilities of their choice and cannot be denied coverage.


Health care in Japan can be summarized as a government-funded, job-based insurance that is mandatory and universal.  Be sure to check back next month for an analysis of another highly ranked healthcare system from New Zealand!

Robert Desai is an successful equities investor in Massachusetts, and also spent time in the medical field. Check out his investing website or follow him on Twitter for the latest healthcare policy blogs!