How Universal Health Care System in Japan Led to the success over COVID-19?

Japan has recorded 9.24 deaths per million people due to the novel coronavirus. As Japan is the most aged country in the world, this mortality rate is much beneath compared to many developed countries. The cause for the lower mortality rate in Japan compared to western countries is still being investigated. However, the Japanese health care system is thought to be one of the main factors leading to Japan’s win so far in handling the novel coronavirus pandemic internally.

Japan’s medical care system is denoted by universal health insurance, a consistent fee schedule, and a no-gatekeeping system. In 1961, as such Japan was not a high income country. Then government formed a universal health insurance system. This system enveloped the whole population living in Japan and secures access to health care services at a cheap cost. The uniform fee schedule helps to contain the entire cost of healthcare, although most of the healthcare benefits in Japan (80 percent) are privately owned.

By merging the universal health insurance scheme and the uniform fee schedule, Japan got ingress to health care services for all individuals nevertheless of their socioeconomic standing.

To boot, public health centres have also played a significant part in upgrading health of people in Japan.

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, this productive combination of policies and health infrastructure is thought to have relatively contributed in managing the novel coronavirus in Japan. Although the number of public health centres have gone down because of administrative reform in recent years, public healthcare centres played the crucial role in managing COVID-19. It mainly includes contact tracing, and arranging PCR testing, but public financing has covered all the costs for tests and treatment.  With the Japanese health care system’s universality and no-gatekeeping approach, any individual who had any symptoms had access to health care facilities without thinking about the price, which resulted in early detection, and isolation of novel coronavirus patients.

It is not sufficient to build up the crisis response to epidemic outbreaks and a catastrophe response will not be fruitful without strengthening the basic health system itself. As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, together with Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO, restated before the novel coronavirus outbreak that in order to better prepare for future pandemics, we once again need to acknowledge the significance of UHC with powerful healthcare systems and good preparedness for health emergency situations.

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