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Your guide to health insurance in Japan

Moving to Japan will raise many questions regarding how the country's healthcare system works, and the type of health insurance to cover unexpected medical expenses. 

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.

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Overview of the health insurance system in Japan

Japan’s healthcare ranked fourth-best in the world by Business Insider in 2018 and the Prosperity Index in 2017. The country’s healthcare system itself is one of the most cost-efficient on the planet, costing around 9.5 percent of GDP, despite its aging population (Bloomberg.)

Japan has had universal healthcare since 1961 - and foreigners and workers from abroad can be included in this system. The current healthcare system in Japan allows for 70 percent of the cost associated with hospital visits, tests, medical appointments, prescriptions and other medical costs to be billed to the government. The remaining 30 percent is paid by the patients, however, depending on their financial circumstances, patients can pay less: either 20 percent or even 10 percent.

To clarify further, the 70 percent in which the government is responsible for paying is covered through the income generated through two insurance schemes, known as the Social Health Insurance (SHI) and the National Health Insurance (NHI).

The SHI is the program that all full-time employees of medium to large-sized companies are automatically enrolled. Approximately 5 percent of the employees' salary is contributed to the SHI.

The NHI is a program for individuals that are self-employed or work for small businesses. The contribution that they make vary from person to person, according to their income.

Healthcare for expats and their family living and working in Japan

Expats and their family members that intend to reside in Japan for 3 months or longer can join the NHI program. It is mandatory for expats with a visa exceeding three months (90 days) to be registered on one of the two public insurance schemes. This also applies to those that work for medium to large companies and are enrolled in the SHI program. It is also important to note that SHI program requires 1 year to come into effect, so it is recommended for individuals, spouses and family members to secure private health insurance on top during the wait. 

The difference between SHI and NHI for expatriates is that SHI is more economical as employers contribute equally. Additionally, SHI includes coverage for family members, whereas NHI does not.

Public healthcare in Japan

Public healthcare in Japan falls under the SHI and NHI programs. Both will grant individuals access to the country’s public healthcare system.

Expats are advised to register at their local municipal office or local city hall to start receiving healthcare in Japan under those programs. Once applications have been lodged and 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.

Although Japan’s medical facilities are abundant in Japan, with treatments and medicine being of high quality, it is advisable for expats to secure private health insurance in the event they require more immediate specialist care from a private setting.

Private healthcare in Japan

The private medical system in Japan is one of the best in the world, and delivers excellent services and world-class treatments that one would expect when visiting one. However, going to a hospital in Japan - where the majority of healthcare workers only speak Japanese - can seem scary. It is worth mentioning that with private health insurance, the insurer can assist in many ways, such as providing policyholders with a list of hospitals that offer English speaking medical doctors and nurses.

Health hazards to be aware of in Japan

It is recommended to be up to date with vaccinations to prevent the following:

  • Measles: This illness is highly contagious and is caused by the measles virus. There are vaccines that include the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and the yearly flu shot.

  • Hepatitis A: This is a virus that can occur anywhere around the world, including Japan. Hepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated food or water in Japan, so it is worth seeking the attention of a doctor to get vaccinated.
  • Hepatitis B: The infection is caused by a virus that can be contracted through sexual contact, contaminated needles, tattoo or piercing. The risks are always high, so it is essential to be wary of hygiene at places, especially at large events public events. Getting vaccinated can help reduce the effects of the virus and prevent health problems, like scarring of the liver.
  • Japanese Encephalitis: This disease 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. 
  • Rabies: This is a deadly virus that is spread to people from the saliva of infected animals, like bats. Although it is unlikely to contract the virus in urban areas, it is recommended to get vaccinated if traveling outdoors to caves or places that bats are present.

How to find the best private health insurance in Japan

There are many insurance options available in Japan, which is why it can be a challenging task to find the best private health insurance policy. One of the best decisions expats can make is to consult an experienced insurance broker like Pacific Prime.

With almost two decades of experience matching expats with the most optimal health insurance solutions on the market, Pacific Prime leverages their 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 that provide impartial advice and support.

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