WaPo Alarmed: Japan Health Insurance Actually Insures

A September 7 Washington Post report on Japanese healthcare claims that “more than one-third of the workers’ premiums are used to transfer wealth from the young, healthy and rich to the old, unhealthy and poor.” Which Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 9/7/09) understatedly calls “a striking statement”:

Fire insurance transfers wealth from people who don’t have house fires to people who do. Car insurance transfers money from people who don’t have car accidents to people who do. This is the basic concept of insurance. It protects people from bad events, transferring money from people who don’t have bad events to those who do. In other words, this quote is telling us that Japan’s health insurance system is operating like a health insurance system.

The article is also quick to tell readers that Japan’s system may be unsustainable. Its subhead is: “Aging population could strain system.” It is worth noting that Japan’s population is already far older than the U.S. population.

“If the United States had the same age distribution as Japan,” writes Baker, “its healthcare costs would almost certainly already be above 20 percent of GDP, compared to the current 17 percent.” Listen to the FAIR radio program CounterSpin: “Trudy Lieberman on Healthcare Reform” (8/14/09).