Heading towards a Japanese health system

Caution that recent events, like California’s health proposal and government negotiation with pharmaceuticals, points us towards the Japanese health system:

Through its universal health insurance program, Japanese bureaucrats are charged with the responsibility and power to ensure a “minimum standard of care for all.” Rules of the game, and in particular what is covered and how doctors get paid, are mainly set by the central government in Tokyo.

Sound familiar? It should, as this is the direction we would be headed in within the U.S. if recent state level universal coverage proposals and federal prescription drug purchases for Medicare beneficiaries are enabled. The Journal article lists many of the downsides to the system, particularly in light of cancer coverage:

“¢ “Japan saves by requiring less training of doctors and paying them less”
“¢ Japanese “doctors say they have little time for patients”
“¢ Until recently, many Japanese cancer patients weren’t even told that they had the disease””family members “often felt it was cruel to burden the patient with information” about the cancer diagnosis.

The Journal article further indicates that new classes of chemotherapy drugs and the spread of the Internet have “spawned a new class of activist cancer patients.” This patient activist movement has grown largely in response to the central government’s reluctance to embrace and approve a new class of promising cancer drugs.