Question from Debito’s thread: does an American leaving Japan have to notify ward office to shut off pension and health care coverage?

This is coming from the bottom comments (around #55 to #61 as of this posting) on Debito’s recent entry about expats.

The claim is that there is a form that one must fill out in order to stop the billings. But I think it’s possible for them to stop, simply by sending a letter, explaining that you left Japan. (This is not the dodge where people pretend to “leave” Japan in order to get off the National Health Insurance.)

It sounds to me like some of the posters conflated a form that is used for PR (permanent residents) to discontinue payments while they are not physically present in Japan. I don’t think you have any right to be in either program, though, if you don’t have status of residence.

Some of the comments in response seem to go into that area of snarkiness, where I’m not sure that these people are any more than 50% serious about the question. It’s a good question.

As an aside: When the IBM Japan role (see earlier posts) ended in early 2009, I did re-enroll in the kokumin kenko hoken. Since the payments are based on the prior fiscal year, not only did I have to pay, but the amount was the maximum in the program—because I had a good income. So, yes, I did have to pay those, but I got a tax deduction in 2010 for those amounts. The kokumin nenkin is delayed if you have unemployment, but one is not eligible for the months that you don’t have status of residence. There is also some amount of administrative relief when income is below a certain level.

I don’t think it has to do with whether they choose to bill you or not, or whether they know or not, or whether they get the information on the proper form. They can always find out by calling immigration or going to the ward desk for alien registrations.

[Update: In furtherance of why the comments are a bit of bunk, notice how Kobe City makes no mention of forms on its checklist of "to do" things before leaving Japan.]

[Update #2: You might notice that the various materials the Japan Pension Service is asking as proof of leaving go to the issue of claiming the the Dattai ichi-ji kin (One-time lump sum refund). You are not required to withdraw your pension claim this way, and I generally advise to avoid taking the lump sum, since the annuity is more valuable.]

[Update #3: Here's one that says, when you leave Japan, turn your Blue Book in! Like hell am I going to do that! That's part of the proof I was in to begin with. See? This is why you shouldn't take advice from trolls.]

[Update #4 (5/31/12): More troll commenting, below, that I'm letting through to show that these people just keep it up.

The person alleges to have phone calls around, and claims that if you leave a municipality and turn your card in, the "debt" will just keep growing until you produce pages off your passport. I disagree. Shibuya Ward disagrees, too, at least on what they put in English on their website:

* When a person moves out of Shibuya or leaves Japan, the NHI certificate becomes invalid on the day after the departure date, and must be returned. If the certificate is used after that date any medical fees incurred will have to be repaid in full. The NHI certificate should also be returned upon enrollment in an employees’ health insurance plan, when a person begins to receive public assistance, or if a member dies.

Nothing about special forms or proof. You no longer have your card, you are out.]

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13 thoughts on “Question from Debito’s thread: does an American leaving Japan have to notify ward office to shut off pension and health care coverage?

  1. Hoofin wrote:
    “When the IBM Japan role ended in early 2009, I did re-enroll in the kokumin hoken.”
    Great, but you were required to enroll in kokunen too, immediately, no gaps allowed.

    Hoofin wrote:
    “The claim is that there is a form that one must fill out in order to stop the billings.”
    Nope, the health and pension sections require you to send them proof of departure.

    Hoofin wrote:
    “I think it’s possible for them to stop, simply by sending a letter, claiming I left Japan.”
    Nope, the health and pension sections require you to send them proof of departure.

    Hoofin wrote:
    “This is not the dodge where people pretend to “leave” Japan in order to get off NHI”
    Until you send them required proof, your letter is seen as a potential dodge attempt.

    Hoofin wrote:
    “I’m not sure that these people are any more than 50% serious about the question.”
    The question has already been answered by a shimin-ka manager, so 100% serious.

    Hoofin wrote:
    “Pension and Health can call immigration or go to the ward desk for alien registrations.”
    Nope, the various offices aren’t allowed to share info, and they don’t call around for you.
    Now you know, health and pension sections require YOU to send them proof of departure.
    So, will you please just admit this new info I’ve given you is something you need to act on?

    Will you please diligently clear up this big problem of 2 large unpaid bills piling up in Japan?
    Until you send that proof to those 2 sections, you are hypocritically “making gaijin look bad.”
    Once you’ve sent copies of your passport departure stamp to the 2 sections: you’re good!

    • Sorry, I have different information than you. I am told that the overseas letter is sufficient to give notice that an enrollee is no longer eligible for the programs.

      Saying, “someone called”, esp. when it’s connected to a BBS where there have been a number of trolling fights, is not sufficient for me. I’d like to see an actual regulation in Japanese.

      The problem, “John”, as you might imagine, is that trolls like to argue one thing, while they’re really trying to pepper their writing with some other, negative message. I think the habit comes from seeing too many negative political ads.

      In your case, you highly discount the fact that, unlike many, I paid. You claim there is some growing bill, instead, and that there is some embarrassment of me by not having the program service fix its own mistake. Sorry, I don’t want to play that game.

  2. “I was told that the overseas letter is sufficient to give notice that an enrollee is no longer eligible for the programs.”

    May I ask, who told you that? I highly doubt a city hall worker told you that. My local city hall says they need PROOF.

    If a mere overseas letter were sufficient, foreigners living in Japan would simply have an overseas letter sent.

    C’mon Hoofin, seriously, now that I’ve told you there’s a big bill in your name, are you going to call them or not?

    Look I agree with you that Japan SHOULD allow info to be exchanged between sections, but Japan DOESN’T allow that.

    I agree with you that a mere letter SHOULD prompt an inter-section confirmation, and a stopped clock, but it simply DOESN’T.

    I agree with you that it is ILLOGICAL that even though you left Japan, your local city hall is still billing you for kokunen+kokuho.

    I think you understand that as soon as you do what city hall says you have to do (send the proof) that debt will be cleared.

    I think it would be silly of you to let that large CONTINUOUSLY GROWING DEBT remain, just because “It’s not your problem.”

    It IS your problem, because city hall says this “merely send a letter from abroad” is NOT the proof that city hall requires.

    It IS your problem, because the non-city-hall person who advised you to “merely send a letter from abroad” was wrong.

    You got wrong advice from somebody, and now here I am telling you how to clear up the mess, because I hate hypocrisy.

    I have read all of your prods for people to FOLLOW THE RULES, and here you are not following the rules, saying “It’s not my problem.”

    I’m prodding you to follow the rule which city hall has here: to stop the clock they need to see a copy of your passport’s departure stamp.

    It seems to me that you’re basically saying, “I don’t like your motivation, so: I’m simply going to let that ever-growing bill remain.”

  3. So I guess ending with an Ad Hominem attack against me means you aren’t going to call up your old city hall?

    It’s too bad, because your calling me “a troll” doesn’t clear up the ever-growing bill in YOUR name in Japan.

  4. Those 3 updates, in which you are again calling me “a troll” for bringing you surprising news, totally avoid the point.

    Before insulting me further, please call your old city hall and ask “Am I still enrolled, is there a big bill piling up in my name?”

    They will answer, “Yes, and the amount owed continues to pile up until you send a copy of your passport’s departure stamp.”

    At that point, if you have any decency, you will apologize for having been so rude to me, and thank me for the info.

    I called my local City Hall for you, I told you what their they said, you didn’t like their requirement, you called me “a troll”.

    At least if you call your old city hall, and ask to speak with the kokumin kenko hoken section, you’ll learn the truth.

    If the kokumin kenko hoken section of the city hall where you lived last replies “You DON’T have a bill piling up.” then I owe you an apology for wasting your time passing you info from my local city hall.

    If the kokumin kenko hoken section of the city hall where you lived last replies “You DO have a bill piling up, we need a copy of your passport’s departure stamp to clear this debt in your name” then you owe me an apology for being so rude to me, Hoofin.

    • You see, the problem is, there is no accruing debt in my name. This is just simply you saying, because you’re trying to scare the casual reader into not enrolling in the proper health insurance.

      Once you no longer have “status of residence” in Japan, you’re not in the health insurance. So there is no accruing debt. You’re not in. Period. Now, if you tell me, that you called a ward office, and they told you that, administratively, they want X, Y or Z, the fact is, they don’t tell people that on their websites. So who should any of us believe? “Notify us when you leave” is not specific to a form.

  5. “Who should any of us believe?” Believe your our old city hall kokumin hoken section, when you call them today.

    It’s like pulling teeth here just to convince you to make a $5 call to Japan to find out there is bill in your name.

    Why all this debate? If you are really so sure that you I am lying to you about this, CALL THEM TODAY AND POST THE RESULTS.

    You’re not a PR temporarily traveling outside of Japan with a return-permit, you’re not a citizen temporarily traveling outside of Japan, so there is no “pause form” for you, stop that confusion.

    For your case, in which you gave up your ARC card because you no longer reside in Japan, they need a copy of your passport’s departure stamp.

    This is what city hall told me: they need to receive a copy of the passport’s departure stamp page, and until they receive that they keep the clock running, and the total amount owed keeps increasing, because otherwise they don’t have proof that you have actually left Japan, because they aren’t allowed to share info between sections.

    Yeah, the whole thing is silly, where immigration knows you’ve left, but the kokumin kenko hoken section doesn’t know you’ve left, but that’s the reality, according to city hall.

    And yes, the whole thing of A) not trusting a mere letter from you, but B) trusting a mere copy, an un-notarized copy, which can be easily faked, is silly. But that’s what they are saying is the case.

    Please, let’s end this once and for all. You know who I am. You know I tried to help you stay in Japan. I’m not the bad guy you’re making me out to be.

    Tell you what, if you call your old city hall’s kenko hoken section (not just any city hall, I mean specifically the place where you lived last) and if you tell them your name and if they look your name up on their computer and if they say “RG-san, our computer shows you DON’T need to send us that copy, your clock was automatically stopped on Dec 20, 2010, you DON’T have any bills piling up here.” I will offer you a heartfelt apology for wasting your time PLUS I will pay for the phone call. I’m sure we can arrange a paypal transfer.

    And conversely, if they say what I’ve been telling you all this time, then please have the integrity to post those results here. Something along the lines of, “Wow, sorry about all this debate, today I called the kokumin kenko hoken section at the old city hall where I last lived, and the manager of that section informs me that (just as posted above) until I send them a passport copy of the departure stamp page there is INDEED a large illogical bill on the books. Thank you for getting me to call and find out once and for all, both for myself and for all readers who have turned in their ARC cards. Whew, as soon as I send that proof as required, that debt mistake will be cleared from the books, and finally I will be able to CORRECTLY say that I owe Japan nothing and that I followed all the rules.”

    • I am really surprised that they are talking to some Japan-side stranger about whatever balances you say are accruing in Japan, when they have my address and kenko hoken card (because I sent it to them per the information for Shibuya Ward on the link, which I am sure you checked).

      Moreover, they ceased sending a monthly bill out to the address where my mail was forwarded for one year. That’s really strange. You’d think they’d have kept sending one, but they didn’t. How did they know that the mail was being forwarded.

      You see, I do know who you claim to be (not named John), but I have problems with the story you are giving.

      • Until now, I was telling you about what MY city hall told me, about people in general.

        But now that you are telling me that Shibuya is the city hall you lived in last, I called them just now: 03-3463-1797.

        Are you sitting down? OK, here goes. It turns out you were right, and I was right, we were both right, about various points.

        Shibuya city hall’s kokumin kenko hoken section says that when one turns in one’s ARC to immigration, immigration sends that info (about a month later) to the appropriate city hall’s kokumin kenko hoken section. So, in this case you were right about immigration notifying the appropriate section, and the info I got from my city hall (which said that immigration doesn’t notify the appropriate section) was wrong.

        Shibuya city hall’s kokumin kenko hoken section says that info from immigration is what stopped the clock in your case, not any letter from you, because in general they don’t trust mere letters from people. So in this case, you were right about the fact that your clock is stopped, and my city hall guy was right about the fact that a mere letter from abroad does not do the stopping.

        Here comes the big surprise Hoofin, as I suspected, as I feared, (I know you think ‘hoped’, but no, I was hoping to be wrong about this, but it turns out I was right) you owe kokumin kenko hoken money.

        The major surprise here, both for me and for you, is that you owe them money NOT for bills incurred AFTER you left, on the contrary, you owe them money for bills that occurred BEFORE you left. Oops.

        [Redacted: Claims there is an arrearage, and claims that the ward office gave a specific amount.] The good news is no interest is being added to that. Whew. The bad news is that this revelation is probably a hard blow to the ego of someone who prides themselves on following the rules paying their bills.

        Please don’t kill me for helping you find out about this, I’m only the messenger.

        I’m sure there must be some rational explanation as to why Shibuya city hall’s kokumin kenko hoken section says you have x yen in unpaid bills that were racked up from x to x.

        Let’s remember, the only reason I started trying to find out whether you owe Japan or not is because you so often scold people (like me) for not following the rules and for not paying our bills.

        I think the correct response to this revelation, that you are not perfect either, should be a little more humility, what do you think Hoofin?

        Yes, you can still have pride in the fact that this unpaid amount was probably unknown to you, so you were not CONSCIOUSLY dodging payment.

        You are still a step above those who are CONSCIOUSLY slightly behind on payments, and you are still 2 steps above those who are CONSCIOUSLY not paying at all, and you are still 3 steps above those who are CONSCIOUSLY not enrolled at all.

        So, this is my final post on the subject. If you want to pay that x yen (which I’m sure you do) the Shibuya city hall’s direct number is 03-3463-1797.
        http://www.city.shibuya.tokyo.jp/city/contact/dial.html#kokuho_nenkin

        • Sorry, the records I have are different from what you stated. Additionally, I find it hard to believe that people just call ward offices and the ward desk simply “gives over” information like that. With each additional post, you sound just more and more creepy; but I appreciate the fact that you agree that there aren’t these compounding amounts that grow for any foreigner who registers for National Health, and then leaves Japan. I wonder why you were so insistent on that. But only a bit.

  6. I almost forgot, I owe you an apology for wasting your time: I’m sorry I wasted your time.

    I stupidly assumed that what MY city office told me applied to EVERY city office in Japan.
    It turns out there are differing city hall policies existing in Japan, no nationwide standard:

    MY city hall REQUIRES a copy of passport departure stamp to stop the hoken/nenkin clock.
    MY city hall doesn’t accept mere letter sent from abroad to stop the hoken/nenkin clock.
    MY city hall doesn’t receive notification from immigration to stop the hoken/nenkin clock.

    YOUR city hall doesn’t require copy of passport departure stamp to stop hoken/nenkin clock.
    YOUR city hall doesn’t accept mere letter sent from abroad to stop the hoken/nenkin clock.
    YOUR city hall DOES receive notification from immigration to stop the hoken/nenkin clock.

    It was stupid of me to assume that what MY city office told me applied to EVERY city office.
    Again, I’m sorry I wasted your time, and I’m sorry I got so much into your personal business.

    If your city hall says you owe them, but your records show you don’t, that is between you 2.
    I really should have let you make the call, on your own dime, since this bill only affects you.
    I think chances are high that they are mistaken, thus you don’t really owe Japan anything.

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