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Health Insurance in Japan: Important Points to Remember in 2022

Health Insurance in Japan—Nikkei has teamed up with the Japan Center for Economic Research to develop suggestions to restructure Japan’s health care system, boost medical innovation, and alter social security benefits in light of the country’s two-year battle with the coronavirus.

As part of a cooperative study effort with the involvement of outside specialists, the recommendations are aimed at improving treatment and service both during emergencies and during regular times.

Allowing Japan’s central and local governments to direct institutions that provide services under Japan’s health insurance system to set aside medical professionals and beds when necessary is part of the reorganization of the care system.

There has been a distinct division during the epidemic between health care practitioners who proactively take COVID-19 patients for treatment and those who shun them. As a result of an increase in the number of infections, medical staff and hospital beds are in short supply in some places, forcing patients to recuperate at home.

The Nikkei-JCER ideas are aimed at preventing this from happening in the future.

According to the study’s findings, health insurance premiums and taxes provide the majority of the earnings made by medical facilities and pharmacies that accept health insurance. According to this logic, the central government and local authorities should have some say in how the healthcare system is run.

Japanese legislation offers health care professionals wide latitude to build treatment centers and choose their specializations, which the researchers slam the government’s handling of.

According to the group, medical business groups have lobbied the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare to put change on hold for years.

Using digital technology to track medical workers and resources across various sectors is recommended as part of the suggestions. With snapshots of specific medical institutions, patients can be directed to hospitals with room for their needs.

Japan should reduce the classification of COVID-19 to include it with common infectious diseases like seasonal influenza after the increase caused by the omicron variant ceases, and effective therapies are widely available, the researchers added.

Patients in their working years would be responsible for paying 30% of the treatment costs instead of the government picking up the slack.

From the perspective of limiting damage to our national finances, the research group concluded that asking for payment out-of-pocket is appropriate.

To better respond to pandemics and natural disasters, the committee advises creating a new agency. Ideally, the head of the organization should be a science expert who can effectively communicate the reasoning behind its actions to the general public.

According to the experts, rapid licensing of therapies and vaccinations during emergencies would help promote innovation. They want to see more government-led medical trials and a US-style emergency usage authorization system in place in the future.

The research group noted that only around 10% of Africa’s population had gotten two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Japan has a responsibility to play a leading role in global vaccine distribution.

In Japan, workers’ and employers’ portion of social insurance costs has increased to about 30% of wages — a level that academics believe is unlikely to rise any further. If Japan raises the current 10% consumption tax rate, it will provide a long-term source of income for the group.

The group argues that the current generation is responsible for paying back the growing debt generated from coronavirus countermeasures and that the government should take steps to do so. Japan’s ruling coalition and opposition must work together to find a long-term financial source for this project.

What You Need to Know About Health Insurance in Japan

The expat community in Japan is broad and ever-changing, ranging from those who teach English as a second language to those who work in high technology. Relocating a family in their 40s to start new occupations is just as common as university students taking a year or two off to work, save, and travel, and it’s not uncommon at all. The good news is that expats in Japan can get outstanding health insurance plans regardless of their work choice.

Japan has enjoyed universal health care since 1961, and everyone, regardless of nationality, is welcome to enroll in the program. 70% of the costs related to medical appointments, hospital visits, tests, and medications are invoiced to the government in Japan’s present healthcare system. The remaining 30% is the responsibility of the patients. Depending on their financial situation, the patient’s part can be as low as 20% or even 10%.

Two systems, known as SHI and NHI, are responsible for generating 70% of the government’s costs. All full-time employees of medium and large businesses are automatically registered in SHI or social health insurance. A health-related deduction of about 5% of their pay is withheld, and the employer contributes the same amount.

People who own businesses and are self-employed or work for small firms contribute to the national health insurance program (NHI). Their contribution varies based on their income, and the process is more time-consuming than the SHI. There are 47 regional administrative districts where residents must submit their papers. If you’re a US citizen or an expat residing in Japan, you may wish to customize a specific plan to suit your circumstances.

The GeoBlue Xplorer plan offers high-quality benefits, top-notch customer service, and a wide range of options that allow you to customize your coverage to meet your requirements. Each year, the plan provides coverage for up to nine months in the United States (compared to other programs that will limit the scope in the US to 3-6 months per year). There’s also a Blue Cross / Blue Shield network of hospitals and doctors in the US should you require it. The Xplorer plan offers a premium network of doctors and hospitals outside of the United States, ensuring that you have access to high-quality care wherever you go.

The public sector will meet a majority of expats’ primary healthcare requirements. This is because all Japanese hospitals are required by law to be non-profit institutions, and physicians must own and run all clinics. Only a tiny portion of the private health care market is dedicated to aesthetic and elective operations.

Overall, the public healthcare system in Japan provides top-notch care. Preventative care, such as vaccinations, prenatal care, and the prevention of life-threatening illnesses, receives a lot of attention. Mental health, however, is the system’s one area of weakness. There is still a stigma attached to receiving mental health care and therapy. The use of seclusion and restraints, for example, is still widespread in Japan, although these methods have been out of date in other countries for decades.

Expats should be aware that patient communication in Japan may differ significantly from that at home, which may surprise many. Doctors wield considerable power, and it’s rare when it comes to questioning or clarifying your doctor’s directions. The rules are set in stone. “Right to Know” is a relatively new notion in the medical community. As a result, using the local health care system can be considerably more stressful than it should be. Having a trusted friend or colleague along for moral support can help talk to other Expats about their experiences.

Almost everyone in Japan has additional private health insurance. In addition to the fees that patients ordinarily bear, this coverage provides supplemental financial assistance (the 30 percent of the cost associated with medical visits and so on). Even with these small savings, the total can quickly mount up! Additionally, it can provide private insurance options and services that aren’t usually covered by the public system, such as orthodontics.

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