healthcare tourism

Posted on Mar. 17, 2010 by geoffropuff

not often do i write about serious issues (as evidenced by my toilet and dog poo posts) but today i saw something really interesting in the daily yomiuri (english version of the yomiuri shinbun, japan’s biggest national newspaper).  japan is among a group of countries actively promoting and testing the idea of healthcare tourism.

yomiuri giants

a side note, this is the same yomiuri that owns the yomiuri giants. they are a huge corporation that engulfs many different industries than baseball and news.

the gist of it is that kane-mochi (rich, literally meaning “has money”) people from countries with poor healthcare (ex. china, russia, arab countries) travel to other more medically advanced countries.  economists and politicians see this as a booster to the sagging japanese economy.  the patients must pay for travel and medical expenses but the japanese tourism board provides the interpreters.  for a country like japan with an outstanding national healthcare program, this is an innovative way to serve more people and help out the economy at the same time.

i immediately thought that this could never work in america.  as it stands, the only people to receive significant medical care in the states are those that can afford the ridiculous and rising costs.  by marketing to foreigners with money, that would only be bringing more people to the front of the line, ahead of our own citizens.  this could never happen right?

tadamasa goto

tadamasa goto, the yakuza boss who received his liver at UCLA medical center.

WRONG!  in the book that i’ve plugged at least a couple times, Tokyo Vice, the thing that eventually caused reporter Jake Adelstein to leave the profession was a threat from the yakuza.  he had unearthed information regarding a high level yakuza boss’s (tadamasa goto) trip to UCLA medical center for a liver transplant.  goto didn’t just provide cash in this case, he paid/donated $1 million to the transplant center AND became a rat for the FBI.  the fact that people from other countries, especially criminals of goto’s level, can receive their organs in 6 weeks (the average wait time for a liver in california is 3 years) is preposterous.  on another note, 3 of goto’s underlings also received livers, jumping to the top of the list by paying $100,000 cash.


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i’m glad that japan was able to find a new and innovative way to stimulate the economy.  i just hope that it doesn’t become a deterring factor in their own citizens receiving healthcare (which i should note probably won’t happen.  japan values it’s own moreso than anyone else, almost to the point of being xenophobic.  there’s no way they would allow this to happen unless they believed it would not affect anything but their pocketbooks).  the US, on the other hand, shouldn’t consider this an option until we can take care of our own citizens first.  i’m still hopeful that obama can push through his healthcare reform.  time will tell, i guess.

[daily yomiuri] [cbs news]

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