Health Insurance for Expats and Foreigners in Japan
Citizens and expats living in Japan are required to enroll in public health insurance, but many choose to supplement with private insurance policies. International health insurance can cover expats during their time in Japan, as well as their other global adventures.
This guide will provide expatriates and their families with information on how to gain access to the Japanese health system, and the key Japanese health insurance plans available. Read on to learn more, or obtain a no-obligation, free quote below.
The Healthcare System in Japan
The healthcare system in Japan is known across the globe for its high quality and standards. Japan’s government believes its citizens have a right to health, and their beliefs are reflected in the comprehensive care public hospitals and clinics offer.
Unlike most other countries, Japan’s healthcare does not suffer in rural areas. Most doctors prefer to live in rural areas, so the quality of care in rural communities is up to the same standard as in cities.
Japan has had universal healthcare since 1961 - and foreigners and workers from abroad can be included in this system. Healthcare coverage is provided to those eligible through Japan’s Statutory Health Insurance System (SHIS). We will discuss this system below.
Public Health Insurance in Japan
Japan’s public health insurance system SHIS is made of three different types of insurance: Social Health/Employee Health Insurance, National Health Insurance (NHI), and Health Insurance for the Advanced Elderly.
Social Health Insurance, also known as Employee Health Insurance, is provided for expats by their employers while working in Japan. This form of public health insurance is paid for by contributions from employers and a small portion from employees.
NHI insurance plans cover individuals who are self-employed, unemployed, work less than 30 hours a week or are students. The contribution that they make varies from person to person, according to their income.
Health Insurance for the Advanced Elderly requires all Japanese residents 75 and older to enroll. Individuals enrolled in this insurance will pay a premium that is deducted from their pensions. This insurance is supported by government subsidies.
Qualifying for Public Health Insurance for Expats in Japan
Expats can qualify for public health insurance through their employers, or by residing in Japan for 3 months or longer. In fact, it is mandatory for expats with a visa exceeding three months (90 days) to be registered with a public insurance scheme.
Expats are advised to register at their local municipal office or local city hall to start receiving healthcare in Japan under these programs. Once applications have been approved, a national social security card will then be issued and delivered.
This card is needed when using public hospital facilities for anything ranging from medical check-ups to operations.
Coverage and Cost of Public Health Insurance in Japan
SHIS Insurance plans offer comprehensive benefits and coverage for 70 percent of the cost associated with hospital visits, tests, medical appointments, prescriptions, and other medical costs. The remaining 30 percent is paid by the patients.
Depending on their financial circumstances, patients can pay less - either 20 percent or even 10 percent. It’s also important to note that Employee Health Insurance includes coverage for family members, whereas NHI does not.
Public health insurance typically covers:
- Primary and Speciality care
- Hospice care
- Certain approved prescriptions
- Physical therapy
- Dental care
Public health insurance does not cover orthodontics, or corrective lenses for children over 9.
Pros and Cons of Japan's Health Insurance System
The advantage of Japan’s health insurance is the coverage and access to public facilities with high standards of cleanliness and care. The disadvantage is the 30% copayment those enrolled have to pay.
30% of a medical bill can be expensive, and most of the population carries private insurance to supplement these costs. Private insurance policies offer a way to mitigate the cost of the copayment.
Private Insurance in Japan
Private insurance is available through local insurance companies or international insurance companies. International insurance companies are an attractive choice for expats due to their global benefits and coverage.
International health insurance can be purchased through travel insurance or health insurance policies. Travel insurance covers medical costs in case of accidents or sickness, as well as lost baggage or rescheduling fees. International health insurance offers a more comprehensive solution for healthcare.
Best International Health Insurance Options for Expats in Japan
The top international health insurance providers will offer plans for expats in Japan with comprehensive coverage and customizable benefits.
Here is a list of the best international health insurance providers in Japan:
International Health Insurance in Japan - Plans and Coverage
The best international health insurance companies for expats in Japan include Cigna, Geoblue, and more. We will offer a brief overview below of each provider and the key points and benefits of their plans and coverage.
Cigna Global provides flexible insurance plans to expats in Japan with 24/7 access to a customer care team. Their plans are both customizable and comprehensive.
Cigna has Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans with different levels of coverage and limits. All three of these plans share several common key coverage benefits:
- Inpatient and day-patient treatments
- Cancer treatments
- Accidental death or total permanent disability compensation
Geoblue offers an Xplorer health insurance plan that comes in essential or premier. These plans were created for expats traveling from the United States for business, leisure, or study trips. Expats can choose plans that include the United States in their coverage or not.
Both plans have several deductible options. Some shared features across all levels of plans are:
- Diagnostic lab work and X-rays
- Inpatient medical emergencies
- Emergency evacuation and repatriation
- Yearly physicals
Aetna is a Fortune 100 company in the United States and offers expats comprehensive quality healthcare coverage in Japan. They offer flexible and customizable benefits plans with additional options for medical, vision, dental, and pharmacy coverage.
Aetna offers expats international coverage through their Pioneer plans. These plans range in coverage and limits with five levels of coverage to choose from.
The basic coverage for their plans includes:
- Inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment (up to 90 days)
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Rehabilitation up to 120 days
- Emergency dental and optical treatment
April International has over 30 years of experience in the international health insurance market. They provide both comprehensive and flexible plans to expats while in Japan. They provide varying levels of coverage, fully customizable policies, and a wide direct billing network.
They offer different levels of coverage in four plan options: core, essential, extensive, and elite.
Some of the shared coverage across their plans are:
- 24/7 Evacuation, repatriation, and assistance services
- Hospital and Surgeries
- Cancer treatments
NOW Health International offers expats in Japan comprehensive health insurance solutions, as well as providing plans for international students. They offer online claim processes through a mobile app and provide other prompt online support.
They have several different tiers of plans: WorldCare Advance, WorldCare Excel, and WorldCare Apex. These plans differ in annual limits and coverage options.
These are the key benefits shared across all three benefits:
- In-patient and day-patient care
- Organ transplant
- Evacuation and repatriation
- Cancer treatment
AXA global health insurance is a great choice for expats in Japan with its range of differing coverage and customizable additional benefits. They offer short-term and long-term plans, with comprehensive coverage for any medical needs.
Some examples of shared coverage by all AXA insurance plans include:
- Hospital charges and surgery
- Emergency coverage
- Medical evacuation and repatriation
- Cancer treatment
- Ambulance transport
IMG provides international health insurance plans for expats in Japan. They offer comprehensive policies and superior services to their members like crisis support and preventative care.
Their global medical plans come in bronze, silver, gold, and platinum categories. Some of the shared features across their varied plans are:
- Inpatient treatment
- Labs and diagnostics
- Physical therapy
- Cancer treatment
Additional Benefits and Coverage
- Dental: Dental check-ups, cleanings, and major dental procedures can be covered by additional benefits.
- Maternity and family coverage: Expats looking to expand their family can customize international health insurance plans to cover prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care. There are also additional benefits to cover the newborn.
- Preventive care: Some plans will offer regular health checkups, screenings, vaccinations, and wellness programs. These resources will help expats keep themselves healthy in their adventures abroad.
Expats with pre-existing conditions may have fewer options when buying international insurance in Japan, but there are still solutions available. You can choose a plan with a pre-existing condition exclusion, a moratorium, or coverage with loading.
Here is a general overview of what each term means:
- Exclusion: The insurer will not pay or reimburse the policyholder for medical bills related to the condition if they choose to buy a plan from them.
- Moratorium: The insurance company offers health insurance but excludes pre-existing condition coverage. The company then observes the pre-existing condition for a specific time known as the waiting period. This period is usually 24 months, and the insurance company reviews its decision.
- Coverage with loading: Insurance companies may offer coverage for pre-existing conditions, but only with higher premiums. Not all pre-existing conditions are eligible for this kind of coverage, and not all companies offer this option.
Retirees Seeking International Healthcare in Japan
Expats retiring in Japan should choose an international health insurance plan that offers comprehensive and flexible coverage for their unique needs. This may include coverage for cancer screenings, chronic conditions support, and preventative health benefits.
Retiree expats living in Japan for longer than 90 days can apply for government-subsidized Health Insurance for the Advanced Elderly. This will only cover expats during their stay in Japan and within the country's borders, whereas international health insurance will protect expats across the globe.
Healthcare Services and Doctor Visits in Japan
Expats will use public hospitals and clinics for most healthcare services including doctor visits. Hospitals in Japan are legally required to be not-for-profit, and all clinics are owned and operated by physicians. The private sector is mostly used for elective and cosmetic procedures.
General practitioners and family doctors are less common in Japan. This is due to most physicians going on to practice specialty, and most Japanese patients make appointments directly with these specialists. To see a doctor for a routine visit, expats should use a public clinic.
Bringing Prescriptions in Japan
Expats who have a prescription medication that has no available equivalent drug in Japan will need a Yunyu Kakunin-sho Certificate to legally import a year’s supply.
If bringing the medication with them, expats can apply for this certificate before leaving and declare it to customs officials upon entry to Japan.
Travel Safety Tips for Expats in Japan
Expats are recommended to be up to date with vaccines before they travel to Japan. The correct vaccines will offer protection from measles, hepatitis A and B, rabies, and Japanese Encephalitis.
Japanese Encephalitis is spread through mosquitoes and getting vaccinated before traveling to Japan can help fight against dangerous symptoms like falling into a coma or swelling around the brain.
Expats have the choice to rely on only public health insurance in Japan or purchase an additional private health insurance policy. International health insurance is a smart choice for expats who plan to travel more extensively and want supplemented coverage during their time in Japan.
If you’re overwhelmed with health insurance options, you can consult an experienced insurance broker like Pacific Prime. We offer free quotes as well!
With almost two decades of experience matching expats with the most optimal health insurance solutions on the market, Pacific Prime leverages its close partnerships with all major insurers and has an extensive portfolio of all the best plans.
In addition to having the best health insurance policies, Pacific Prime also offers unparalleled service and outstanding claims support. Contact Pacific Prime today to secure the best insurance solution with the help of consultants who provide impartial advice and support.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is public health insurance available in Japan for foreigners?
Public health insurance is available through Social Health or Employee Insurance and National Health Insurance. Expats working for employers in Japan will be enrolled in an Employee Insurance plan, and unemployed or self-employed expats will be required to apply for NHI insurance.
2. Is healthcare free in Japan?
Healthcare isn’t free in Japan, but available at a lower, subsidized rate for Japanese residents. Typically the government will pay 70% of medical costs. Depending on income, age, and location of residence, some residents may pay lower rates than others.