There are two major types of insurance programs available in Japan – Employees Health Insurance (健康保険 Kenkō-Hoken), and National Health Insurance (国民健康保険 Kokumin-Kenkō-Hoken). National Health insurance is designed for people who are not eligible to be members of any employment-based health insurance program. Although private health insurance is also available, all Japanese citizens, permanent residents, and non-Japanese with a visa lasting one year or longer are required to be enrolled in either National Health Insurance or Employees Health Insurance.
Medicare Levy Surcharge: People whose taxable income is greater than a specified amount (in the 2011/12 financial year $80,000 for singles and $168,000 for couples) and who do not have an adequate level of private hospital cover must pay a 1% surcharge on top of the standard 1.5% Medicare Levy. The rationale is that if the people in this income group are forced to pay more money one way or another, most would choose to purchase hospital insurance with it, with the possibility of a benefit in the event that they need private hospital treatment – rather than pay it in the form of extra tax as well as having to meet their own private hospital costs.
The Commonwealth Fund, in its annual survey, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall", compares the performance of the health care systems in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the U.S. Its 2007 study found that, although the U.S. system is the most expensive, it consistently under-performs compared to the other countries. One difference between the U.S. and the other countries in the study is that the U.S. is the only country without universal health insurance coverage.
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