Update on the Japan health care gap insurers.

I want to get off this IBM Japan and EEOC thing.

About once a month since last summer, I have been on this issue of the requirement that every resident of Japan carry a proper health insurance coverage. And how the gap insurers do not meet this standard.

A friend pointed out to me by e-mail that there’s been subtle changes in some of the big-name gap insurers doing business over the internet here. For example, Viva Viva! has made many of the particulars about its marketing which I had criticized disappear.

Now, they make it very clear up-front that they are simply short-term insurance, approved under the law as what I call a gap insurer. They still cover 100%, which I feel is the nose under the tent if you are looking for a refund of your premium. But nowhere on the site are they even suggesting that Viva Vida! is somehow the same as regular Japanese health insurance (kokumin kenko hoken or the employer equivalent.)

They do point out that if you’re not insured at all, you should call them right away. But I suppose that’s fair play. Effective April 1, the government here will be telling you where you should be enrolled if you haven’t. So this excuse of “not knowing” won’t be as potent as before.

HealthOne, as regular readers followed in December, has separated its online presence from the website that was actively encouraging expat residents here to go down to their ward office and lie in order to get out of paying the kenko hoken premiums. They, too, are kind-of just there with the gap product if you happen to want it.

Global Health, as I also mentioned, has been offering a gap policy that is pure gap–no hybrid. It only covers the 30% that the NHI does not . The assumption is that you are in the real Japanese health insurance for the other 70%. If you’re not, the one plan I’m talking about will only cover you for 30%.

So in all three cases, the marketers of these products are moving back from the bold assertion that these are a substitute for comprehensive Japanese health insurance (under kokumin kenko hoken or the emplyer-based equivalent), to a new pitch that they are an economical stop-gap. (And like, “whatever you decide to do”, they aren’t getting into the health insurance dodge thing. Although Viva Vida! does link to freechoice.jp.)

I am happy to see that the gap insurers have adjusted their marketing. It makes it a bit more clear what the real rule is in Japan, and that people who are doing the dodge are outside the rule. Which again, it ain’t my worry. I try to watch out for myself.

Seeing the group clean up its act a bit does help those who would otherwise be caught, unaware, paying for a product that won’t leave them square with the ward insurance desk.

2 thoughts on “Update on the Japan health care gap insurers.

  1. I found your page while searching for discussions on Healthone. Lesson learnt: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

    I’ll be in Japan for a 12-month working holiday, and since my visa is only valid for 12-months I’ve been told that I may or may not be able to enroll in the Kokumin Kenkou Hoken. I have a 6-month job lined up, and I was told that I can join the Shakai Kenkou Hoken at 10,000 yen/month during my employment, and at 20,000yen/month for the other 6 months. I can’t find any information online that can tell me if this is a reasonable amount to spend on health insurance in Japan, but I’ve definitely learnt that Healthone is NOT the workaround I was looking for.

    It would really be great if you could have the time and luxury to enlighten me on this subject (re: health insurance arrangements for someone with only 12-months in Japan). I’m sure a lot of other people are also reasearching this subject too. Thanks for your time, Hoofin!

    1. Pyro, here you go:

      The Real Rule is: since you have residence in Japan (and the 12-month visa proves it), you are required to enroll in either kokumin kenko hoken (so called Japanese NHI), or in the shakai kenko hoken one that you mentioned.

      So you would ideally accept the shakai hoken at 10,000 yen/month, then switch to kokumin kenko hoken. If this is your first year, the kokumin kenko hoken premiums will be very low. (In fact, they may be lower than the shakai hoken premiums EXCEPT for the fact the shakai hoken should also include pension.)

      Those payments are all tax-deductible, and so also hope to lower things like the residence tax and the next year’s kokumin kenko hoken premium.

      When I signed up in Koto Ward, I paid about 4500 yen a month for kokumin kenko hoken. It was based on my income in 2004 in Japan, which was nothing because I was not in Japan. Even the 2006 (next year’s) one was rather low.

      Don’t let people tell you that you aren’t eligible for one or the other. The Real Rule is that you are supposed to be in either one or the other!

      That’s why the group of people who went with the gap insurers are running around like crazy trying to figure out what they would owe the city hall for the real insurance. It’s because they didn’t get in on Day One like they were supposed to.

      I know a lot of this was people misleading and scaring them. But Japan should just really get on the ball about explaining its own rules and showing people how the health system is big benefit to them. And if people can’t afford it, start knocking on the employer’s doors and kicking some butt to get the employers to stop playing games with money.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s