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Why I love my Japanese social insurance

February 11, 2009

2075I found out a few days ago that my Japanese social insurance was still intact, so I decided to see a doctor about my neck and finger pains from a skiing accident a couple of weeks ago. It was awesome. Here’s why.

I had no appointment and was a new patient at the orthopedist in Ebisu; but two minutes after I walked in, the doctor was calling my name. I explained what was hurting; he moved my joints gently, asking what hurt, and then sent me to x-ray. Three minutes later, I went straight to the back room where I got a massage and electric nerve stimulator treatment for 20 minutes each. Then they very carefully taped my finger and my neck. Two minutes after that, I was back in the doctor’s office reviewing my x-rays on a computer screen. His explanation was simple but thorough, and he encouraged me to come back for more massages for 350 yen each.

Total bill: 6000 yen. Total time spent: 45 minutes.

Next, I bicycled over to Meguro station to get my eyes checked. I forgot to bring a spare set of contact lenses, and my old ones were sticking to my eyeballs. Again, no appointment, just my insurance card. I asked how long the wait would be. There are four people ahead of you, the lady said. I asked her how much it would cost. Less than ten bucks. Four minutes later, I was in the doctor’s office, hopping from one eye-checking machine to the other checking for everything under the sun that could be wrong with my eyeballs. Everything was good, and he gave me several options on contact lenses from a folder. Then he gave me a free pair and two prescriptions: one for contacts, one for glasses.

Total bill: 980 yen. Total time spent: 20 minutes.

The last time I went to the doctor was at a hospital in San Francisco after injuring my pinkie in a basketball game. After three and a half hours of waiting, I was given a hasty x-ray by a technician, who told me she thought there was nothing wrong, though she wasn’t a doctor so she couldn’t say for sure. Then she told me to leave. Nobody ever called me or told me what was wrong with my finger, so I assumed it was fine. I can’t remember how much that visit cost, but I got a mysterious bill from a x-ray lab a year later that I am still trying to decipher.