Funding from the equalization pool is distributed to insurance companies for each person they insure under the required policy. However, high-risk individuals get more from the pool, and low-income persons and children under 18 have their insurance paid for entirely. Because of this, insurance companies no longer find insuring high risk individuals an unappealing proposition, avoiding the potential problem of adverse selection.
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.
The meaning of health has evolved over time. In keeping with the biomedical perspective, early definitions of health focused on the theme of the body's ability to function; health was seen as a state of normal function that could be disrupted from time to time by disease. An example of such a definition of health is: "a state characterized by anatomic, physiologic, and psychological integrity; ability to perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; ability to deal with physical, biological, psychological, and social stress". Then in 1948, in a radical departure from previous definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition that aimed higher: linking health to well-being, in terms of "physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity". Although this definition was welcomed by some as being innovative, it was also criticized as being vague, excessively broad and was not construed as measurable. For a long time, it was set aside as an impractical ideal and most discussions of health returned to the practicality of the biomedical model.
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There are different options available to both employers and employees. There are different types of plans, including health savings accounts and plans with a high or low deductible. The plans that have the high deductibles typically cost the employee less for the monthly premiums, but the part they pay for each time they use their insurance, as well as the overall deductible before the insurance covers anything is much higher. These types of plans are good for the people who rarely go to the doctor and need little health care. The lower deductible plans are typically more expensive, however, they save the employee from having to spend a lot of money out of pocket for services and treatment. The recent trend for employers is to offer the high deductible plans, called consumer-driven healthcare plans, because it costs them less overall for the care their employees need, but it is a lower monthly premium for the employees.
The first government responsibility is the fixing of the rate at which medical expenses should be negotiated, and it does so in two ways: The Ministry of Health directly negotiates prices of medicine with the manufacturers, based on the average price of sale observed in neighboring countries. A board of doctors and experts decides if the medicine provides a valuable enough medical benefit to be reimbursed (note that most medicine is reimbursed, including homeopathy). In parallel, the government fixes the reimbursement rate for medical services: this means that a doctor is free to charge the fee that he wishes for a consultation or an examination, but the social security system will only reimburse it at a pre-set rate. These tariffs are set annually through negotiation with doctors' representative organisations.
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