Japanese health insurance: You must enroll. Enforcement is weak.

This topic has been pretty much beaten like a dead horse on my blog, but I’ve been pulled into a discussion over at another website called “Gaijinass”.

Mr. Yosomono there had posted sometime last November (2009) about the whole insurance-as-part-of-visa-renewal enforcement proposal. As you recall, how the Justice Ministry (which issues visas) resolved the matter was to say that alien visa holders would not be required to show proof of enrollment in health insurance, but rather, encouraged to join the real Japanese health insurance program. (Not gap insurance.)

The point I have been making is that the requirement to enroll in Japanese national health insurance or the employee’s equivalent program comes from Labor and Health statutes. Mr. “Gaijinass” himself wanted more proof then my say-so, and I could only refer him to the link in the long-running thread from last March.

So the rule is the rule. The only question is whether it’s enforced and how. I have been saying that I think the application of the rule is going to become greater when DPJ gets around to reforming social insurances, and when the government issues the new Zairyu card.

Others have different opinions. One thing that is certain is that whole “Guideline 8” controversy did not say what the Gaijinass people say it did. I think that was the Free Choicers whole purpose of misleading people. See, it worked.

[Update: You know, I hate to bore regular readers–I try so hard not to. Really! But you folks have every right to be bored about the health care thing. Why it’s a small project of mine is that I gave out the advice, some time ago, that people should register. People worry about the cost, and I think for most grunt-wage folks, it’s competitive with these private companies. I’m even told that in some localities, they don’t chase you around if you are late paying. So in fact it all just might be a nonissue.

One pattern I have noticed–anecdotally, based on e-mails and searches to my site–is that more people are searching on the question. I don’t think I’m getting the hits based off site popularity, because “Japanese health insurance enrollment” as an English search term, for example, is a really arcane search in the internet world. Terms like that just keep popping up more and more, leading me to believe that more and more people are getting notices about it. The government is probably starting with those who report a high income but aren’t enrolled in a shakai hoken plan. That’s where I would start, because that’s where the money is.

My advice is internet advice, same as the hundreds of others out there. Let me say this much, though: some people don’t want you in Japanese health insurance, because then, that’s one fewer protester out there. If 90% of gaijins are in, it makes the 10% very uncomfortable. So they’d rather have it like 50%-50%.

Probably no central agency in Japan even knows what the real percentage is. But when the Zairyu Card comes out though, they will. ]