Healthcare Systems in the United States and Japan

Nowadays, many countries continue taking steps to move their healthcare systems to achieve a universal level with all options and opportunities available to people. However, despite numerous attempts to improve the field, millions of people remain uninsured and face considerable challenges in receiving medical services. In this paper, special attention will be paid to the two countries, the United States and Japan. The peculiar feature of this choice is that both countries are on the top of the list of the developed countries with a low rate of smokers and a high rate of medical technologies and special devices (Squires & Anderson, 2015).

Still, the American population suffers from a problematic insurance level, multiple chronic diseases, and patient dissatisfaction with offered services. In its turn, Japan, with its universal health coverage, faces other challenges. The comparison of the healthcare systems in the United States and Japan should help to define their weak and strong aspects, clarify insurance conditions, and recognize the role of the government to identify the authors of the best care plan for the whole country.

The US Healthcare System

The history of the American healthcare system may be traced back to the end of the 19th century. American leaders believed that the country could be strong only if its people were healthy. Similar ideas are supported today through the creation of new healthcare reforms, acts, and standards. The main feature of US healthcare is its market-based structure. There are many organizations that can offer care to citizens. As a rule, healthcare facilities are developed in the private sector.

Though America spends much on its citizens’ health care, such high spending cannot help to deal with poor health outcomes, short life expectancy, and the growth of chronic conditions (Squires & Anderson, 2015). Compared to many developed and developing countries, the United States still has high infant mortality rates, with about six deaths per 1,000 live births (Squires & Anderson, 2015). Therefore, attention is paid to the conditions under which maternal and prenatal care is offered.

Not all Americans can allow themselves properly covered health insurance. The cost of health insurance depends on such factors as the age of a person (older people have to pay more than younger people), the rating area (the citizens of suburban areas can pay less), the number of family members, and the use of tobacco (according to some sources, smokers should pay more) (McClanahan, 2013). Many unemployed or illegally employed people are not ready to pay such money and, as a result, face considerable problems when treatment and medical help are required.

To solve the problems of insurance, the government continues developing new programs. In fact, the role of the US government is great in the country. It is responsible for gathering and analyzing information about people and their health conditions. It may also investigate risks and improve the current state of affairs. For example, in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was introduced to reduce health care costs, widen access to insurance services, and promote equality (Otake, 2017). Though many discussions and debates occur because of President Trump’s intentions to repeal the ACA, the US healthcare system continues working.

Japanese Healthcare System

In their intentions to compare the healthcare system and define the best plan of work, many countries use Japanese health care as an example. As well as many other countries around the globe, Japan has universal coverage with a unique hybrid of public and private characteristics. This decision was made at the beginning of the 1960s, according to which every citizen had to join an insurance program and pay monthly for governmentally approved medical services (Otake, 2017).

Insurance may be employee-based and directed by special organizations, as well as public-servant or self-employed and directed by the government. As a rule, all citizens of this country should be covered without being divided by age, disease, or other categories.

The chosen system of health care in Japan helps to reduce the number of uninsured people in the country. People admit that they have increased average life expectancy and established high health care standards, promoting insurance for everyone (Otake, 2017). Economic status, pre-existing conditions, and access to public money cannot influence the choice of a hospital, a doctor, or a medical service. However, at the same time, the citizens of Japan consider such an obligation to cover their health needs as a requirement that is not always easy to accomplish. Sometimes, patients have to undergo costly treatments and the use of professional help.

Japanese medical education and training systems are not perfect (Otake, 2017). In addition, population growth promotes the emergence of waiting lines and the inability to visit a hospital when it is necessary. Therefore, even if a person gets access to free medical services, such challenges as poorly educated medical workers and a number of people asking for help at the same time can influence the quality of health care.

At this moment, the Japanese government regulates all aspects of the universal healthcare system. Specially developed fee schedules, subsidies, and taxes are used to make sure that all regulations and standards are met. The result of such attention to detail may be observed among the ratings of the country. Life expectancy is one of the highest in the world – 83.4 years, and infant mortality is the lowest in the world – 3.1 per 1,000 live births (Squires & Anderson, 2015). This country also demonstrates good results in preventing violence, obesity, and drug addiction, which makes this nation one of the healthiest in the whole world.

Healthcare Lessons from the United States and Japan

Both the United States and Japan offer interesting and effective healthcare systems. Both approaches are characterized by certain positive and negative sides. On the one hand, a compulsory system of healthcare in Japan does not provide its citizens with choice but makes them follow certain rules and meet specific standards. Though not all people are ready to make their final health insurance decision, they are obliged to take a step.

On the other hand, a variety of options offered to the citizens of the United States may impress millions of people. However, high healthcare costs, competition between insurance companies, and no common attitude of the government to health care may bother Americans. It is hard for one country to achieve perfect results in all aspects of health care. If a country is good at training and communicating, it may give in technological issues or price.

In fact, I find both systems rather attractive to a modern person. The Japanese approach can be used to stabilize the attitudes to health care in the country. The US method can be effective for many developing countries.

However, if there is a necessity to choose a system that has a better plan of care and treatment, the Japanese example seems to be attractive because of two reasons. First, it helps to increase the overall wealth of the country with a number of obligatory regulations and expectations. Second, preventive services and assessments can help to avoid chronic diseases and complications. Still, it is necessary not to neglect the fact that the US healthcare system is characterized by one of the best training courses and education. The level of knowledge of American doctors and nurses is impressive and should be an example to strive for in other countries.


In general, the comparison and contrast of the healthcare systems in the United States and Japan prove that both countries have a great potential to provide their citizens with high-quality medical services. The role of the government is essential in the United States as well as in Japan. Still, Japanese leaders seem to be more interested and concerned about the necessity to control health and medical care compared to American leaders.

Today, many Americans remain uninsured because of high prices and insurance factors. The citizens of Japan are not always able to receive high-quality help because of poorly trained staff. The achievements and weaknesses of healthcare systems cannot be ignored or avoided in both countries. Therefore, the goal should not be to choose one system and follow it but to learn from the mistakes of other nations and take the best examples to achieve high results in care.


McClanahan, C. (2013). Five quick and important facts on health insurance through Obamacare. Forbes. Web.

Otake, T. (2017). Japan’s buckling health care system at a crossroads. The Japan Times. Web.

Squires, D., & Anderson, C. (2015). US health care from a global perspective: Spending, use of services, prices, and health in 13 countries. The Commonwealth Fund, 15, 1-16. Web.