Is Viva Vida (Interglobal, Global Health, Mom & Dad, etc.) acceptable insurance for the visa?

A Japan post to discuss some of the recent buzz about whether the Japanese immigration office will accept Viva Vida, Interglobal, Global Health and other coverages that are outside of the regular Japanese health insurance system.

I’ve been getting a number of hits on this this week, so I figure I’d share what I’ve seen.

For example, on the Viva Vida site, the company is fairly clear in one part, that their insurance is meant to be a supplemental to the regular (read: valid) Japanese health insurance provided under Japanese law:

The website reads:

For tourist travelling and non-native residents living in Japan, an affordable and reliable medical and life insurance.
We would like you to feel secure and safe during your stay in Japan and not to worry having medical treatment in Japan.

So what the site seems to be saying is that if you are “travelling” in Japan or a non-native resident, then this insurance is for you.

What isn’t made clear, is that if you are non-native resident, you are supposed to be in either the National Health Insurance or a qualified employer plan—just like the native Japanese residents.

The insurance plans of Japanese Insurance Companies are designed under the understanding that all Japanese are a member of National Health Insurance. That is why these insurance plans for Japanese usually takes fixed amount coverage system which covers certain amount per day only for hospitalization and hospital visits.
Also, such plans do not offer easy to understand instructions for foreigners, and the premiums are relatively expensive.

Here, the company does point out that Japanese residents of Japan are of course required to be in a nationally-approved program. But it doesn’t point out that non-Japanese residents of Japan are also required to be in such a program.

The insurance plan of VIVA VIDA MEDICAL LIFE Co., Ltd., the first insurance company for foreigners in Japan with an affordable premium will cover 100% of the actual medical fees for illness and injury including hospitalization.

But again, the company doesn’t point out that you are supposed to be in a government-approved health insurance like Kokumin Kenko Hoken or Kousei Kenko Hoken.

So sure, they’ll cover you. But when the immigration officer inquires about your insurance coverage on your visa renewal, you will find out that having a private company cover your insurance bills isn’t what the Japanese Government had in mind.

This company will even cover Japanese (see the FAQ section).
But the assumption will be that the primary coverage is the National Plan or an employer plan. The Viva Vida coverage will be supplemental to that.

Here is Global Health’s website: Similarly, that company is willing to cover your medical expenses during your “visit” to Japan. AND they will also cover Japanese natives—except only for the 30% of costs that the nationally approved plans won’t cover. (Since you are covered by national insurance for any catastrophic costs, it isn’t clear what the benefit of this is, exactly.)

Interesting quotes from their FAQ:

1. Who is eligible for cover under an InterGlobal international private medical insurance plan?

Persons of all nationalities and their dependants [sic], except for citizens of the USA residing in the USA, those persons who are subject to exchange controls or local licensing regulations or where cover is illegal under local legislation.

But they wait until Question Number 25 to tell you:

25. Are all foreigners in Japan required to enroll in Japan’s National Healthcare scheme? [ ^ ]

All residents in Japan (both Japanese nationals and foreigners) are required to have health insurance, be it through Japan’s National Healthcare (KOKUMIN-HOKEN), Social Insurance (SHAKAI-HOKEN), or other recognized healthcare provider e.g. expatriate health insurance provider.

So if Global Health is ever asked in the future why they were offering health insurance to non-Japanese residents in Japan, they can always point out FAQ Answer 25: you were supposed to be in the Japanese programs all along. They were just a “white hat” covering you after you failed to do what you were supposed to. Global Health never asserts that it is “recognized”; only that if there are recognized ones, then those would meet the rule.

26. I’m already on National Healthcare. Can I cancel it and sign up for InterGlobal Healthcare instead? [ ^ ]

InterGlobal can not guarantee that you will be able to get out of Japan’s National Healthcare once enrolled.

Since this might raise questions as to who covers you . . .

However, many foreigners in Japan are able to cancel by taking their InterGlobal Healthcare Insurance Certificate down to the local ward office (KUYAKU-SHO) and explaining that they are now under and expatriate health insurance plan and therefore no longer need to be covered by National Healthcare. Also, InterGlobal Healthcare offers a 30 day money-back guarantee, which gives you the option to cancel at any time within the first 30 days of cover and be reimbursed for the premiums (as long as you have not made any claims under the plan).

The insurance company here is only reporting to you that some expats have gotten away with showing a Global Health card and convincing the lowly clerk that they are now covered by an employer plan, which Global Health isn’t.

You see, it’s all very carefully worded. They don’t say that their insurance is approved by the Japanese Government—and that’s what you need.

I want to point out expressly that Global Health will not write a policy in the United States. Because if they did, they’d have to be regulated by one state regulator. And any misleading statements would get them in a lot of trouble. If they made any. If.

And there’s Interglobal, who play it a little differently:

Interglobal’s Japan contact information

Interglobal isn’t targeting the Japan expat cheater market. So they simply give you some contact information. You may be a traveller here, or you may be a “traveller” resident. Who knows! Maybe Interglobal will ask you, maybe not. Maybe you will say. Maybe you will just sign up.

And then the game as to whether it’s “gap” insurance (meant to cover the 30%) or full coverage. Oh yes, the many games!

In my view, if the Japanese are telling you this is their rule, and you don’t follow it while in Japan, then you ought to expect whatever you get handed you. It’s not about the Japanese policing the internet. It’s about you doing what you are supposed to do. And that isn’t “making sure my bill has been covered!”, it’s about signing up for and paying the things you are supposed to.

When the news blowups happen next spring (or earlier) with the people denied visas or asked to pay 2 years’ premiums in arrears, I won’t have any sympathy.