Japan expats who want to get square with the real health insurances

Now that the news is out around Japan’s expat cybercommunity that Guideline 8 is probably still very much around, and probably also will be backed up with someone in immigration asking you for proof of insurance, what do you do?

Well, I think this is an honest question for those who fell into the “private insurance” trap without looking to cheat the system.

If your local ward office is going to bill you in arrears for 2 years of health insurance premiums, and you’ve already given the money for “private”, it can be quite a hit.

When your “friends” at the internet expat insurance 1-800 number won’t give you your money back, and start going on about how you knew or should have known this was a temporary, limited “gap policy” all along (pointing to small-print paragraph 36 subsection 2a), how do you show that you thought everything that you were doing was legitimate?

I wish I had easy answers. Nothing is ever easy in Japan, ne? Especially if you take it seriously and aren’t just here for some kind of short-term ride.

One thing that may be helpful is that there was a change of government here, of course. And a change of Ambassadors at the U.S. Embassy. (I am writing from the perspective of an American of course.)

Under the Old Regime of the Liberal Democrats, there were so many petty corrupt things going on, that all a Texas-based insurer probably had to do was call their “good ol’ boy” American Ambassador here (Thomas Schieffer) who hailed from Texas (!), who would then have some contact in the immigration or Labor & Health Ministry look the other way.

But now, the Labor and Health Ministry is under the Japan Democratic Party (Minshuto), and John Roos is President Obama’s ambassador to Japan. People (including me) say that the Embassy is useless. But I sense that with the Okinawa base relocation matter out there, the folks in Toranomon have finally realized that they needed to make a dossier of all the petty abuses the Americans put up with here. Seeing how they are hearing every detail from the Japanese.

If we assume that Minshuto was serious about “regime change”, you need to make the predicament clear to the Labor and Health Ministry. Notice that none of the Free Choicers went that route. Because they are selling gap insurance policies as if they were a legitimate alternative to regular, comprehensive insurance.

The evidence is all over the internet, even in the tiny Google ads.

So you have to build your case that Labor and Health Ministry needs to contact these guys and clean up their marketing. It’s OK to buy gap insurance if you want it—some people want zero expenses for health care, no matter what they pay out for insurance. But the idea that the gap insurance is a replacement for real comprehensive coverage is outright wrong.

If your gap insurer is ultimately U.S. based, you need to raise the issue back home. Using the example of HealthOne, it looks like that would be Indiana and Texas, unfortunately two states among those considered to have weak insurance regulators. At least according to authors here and here. Unfortunately, America does not have national or federal insurance charters . . .

In short, you need to collect your evidence and politely make a stink, since there are some new brooms in operation in Japan. No one can wave a magic wand and get you your money back from the gap insurer who has a shady marketing program. But you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence if you acted in good faith and got ripped off.

It almost goes without saying that the longer you delay getting into the right coverage, the worse you probably make it for yourself.