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.