In the first week after his inauguration, President Donald Trump signed an executive order with a major addition to the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. Americans may now opt out of buying health insurance by watching at least one iyashikei, or “healing,” anime per season.
Iyashikei shows such as Barakamon, Tsuritama and ARIA have long been celebrated by anime fans for their soothing, heartwarming effects. Recently, medical research has explored the genre’s purported healing powers, and some doctors even recommend such shows to their patients in addition to more traditional treatments. However, by treating the genre as a replacement for traditional health insurance, the order goes further than American health policy has ever gone before in endorsing its efficacy.
The executive order indicates the direction that the Trump administration may take in its effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Tom Price, Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that a move to an anime-centric health care system could potentially save the United States over 200 billion dollars a year in health care costs.
The announcement sparked heavy backlash from the medical community. Dr. Richard Janis, a senior medical researcher at Brown University, was one of over five hundred medical professionals who signed an open letter condemning the Trump administration’s decision. He explained his resistance to the so-called “iyashikei option” in a conversation with Anime Maru.
“The potential medical uses of anime are promising, but research on the subject is still in its initial stages,” he said. “And the research we have suggests that these treatments are not for everyone. In my own research, for example, we found that, for people with a family history of heart disease, extended exposure to Non Non Biyori can actually cause their hearts to far exceed recommended thresholds of doki doki.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., also strongly criticized the order. “Once again, Donald Trump has shown his disregard for the millions of Americans who are covered under the Affordable Care Act,” he said in a prepared statement. “For Americans to exercise this new option, they must submit their Crunchyroll accounts every season to the Department of Health and Human Services for review. This is a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who, unable to afford a monthly streaming subscription, are forced to torrent their anime.”
“And despite Republican rhetoric about freedom of choice,” he continued, “it’s obvious that no one would choose pirating anime over high quality, legal streaming options if they could afford it.”
Reactions from the anime fan community were mixed. “I’m not sure what to make of it,” said Daniel Stryker, an anime fan and student at Piedmont Virginia Community College. “On the one hand, getting rid of my monthly insurance bill means I can buy lots more anime figures. On the other hand, if the shows I watch are actually good for my health, that just means I have that many more years ahead of me with no cute 2D anime girlfriend.”