Interesting Facts about the Japanese Healthcare System

The Japanese Healthcare system is noteworthy because of the many benefits it offers its clients and the difficulties that one can encounter if they opt for medical treatment in Japan.

Japan is one of the wealthiest countries in Asia.  It’s also spotless and safe, making it a great place to live or visit, with high-quality medical treatment available all over the country. If you’re planning to get health insurance in Japan, make sure you understand how the system works.

How does the Japanese Health Insurance System work?

Most people over 20 years old are required to have health insurance, whether they’re working or not. The employer will usually deduct a certain amount of money from your monthly salary to cover the cost of your medical treatment.  You must know that this money is not your own, but rather it’s for your medical treatment.

If you worked in Japan, you should know that there are other costs associated with living there, including transportation, utility bills, and food.  So, if you’re thinking of buying health insurance in Japan, then it’s essential to know that your employer might have been covering the costs associated with medical treatment already.

Below are interesting facts about the Japanese Healthcare system:

  1. To obtain the maximum healthcare in Japan, an individual must spend at least ten years in Japan

This fact mainly concerns foreign investors who have worked in the country for less than three years. Employers usually provide employee benefits that include subsidized or free healthcare insurance, but this is only valid if the person has lived in Japan for more than three years.

The Japanese healthcare system was created to accommodate long-term residents, and a short stay in the country will not allow you to reap all the benefits.

  1. There are no private hospitals or clinics in Japan

80% of public health insurance plans do not cover private institutions, which means that people who pay for their healthcare are not insured. However, some private medical facilities can be recognized by the government if they receive certification from the National Institution for Healthcare Management.

  1. Some health insurance plans do not cover pre-existing conditions or chronic diseases

Only 5% of national public health insurance plans cover treatment for various chronic diseases, such as heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes. If you choose public insurance plan to cover such conditions, the fees will be quite expensive since these diseases will require long-term treatment.

  1. Subsidies for health insurance depend on income level and occupation type

The Japanese government subsidizes the cost of healthcare to improve access for individuals in low-income brackets or working in high-risk occupations. A public health insurance corporation called “Kokumin Kenko Hoken” provides free or subsidized insurance for workers in the construction, farming, fishing, forestry, mining, and steel industries.

  1. When planning to travel outside Japan, be aware that international health insurance is not always valid

Since the Japanese healthcare system does not accept International Health Insurance, people traveling to Japan should make sure that their travel insurance will cover what they need inside the country. Hosting a temporary visitor from abroad for a short vacation is usually okay if you have proper coverage.

How should you pay for medical treatment in Japan?

Receiving medical treatments and other services can be expensive, especially if you do not have a health insurance plan. If you are from the United States and receive treatment in Japan without an insurance policy, make sure to ask for a cash payment upfront.

In most cases, you should offer to pay with a credit card or through bank transfer, although some doctors may accept American Express. You can also ask the receptionist about payment methods beforehand.

How to choose a good hospital in Japan?

One of the most common hurdles that foreign patients face is searching for hospitals with translators who speak their language. Since not all Japanese understand English, you can select a medical facility by asking about their translation services. If possible, use Google Translate to learn about hospital services, treatment costs, and insurance policies.

The Japanese healthcare system is not perfect, but it has significantly improved to accommodate foreigners living in the country. Unfortunately, this means that long-term residents will have more access to subsidized or free medical insurance than those who live temporarily in Japan.

If you plan to work in the country for three years or more, make sure you subscribe to a public insurance plan and carry the necessary documents such as your Alien Registration Card (ARC), zairyu card, and health insurance card. When traveling, it is also advisable to get travel insurance Japan, and this plan will save you from a lot of stress and problems.

Interesting Facts about the Japanese Healthcare System1


As a foreigner living in Japan, you should always carry health insurance from your home country. If you are not an expatriate and stay in Japan for more than three months, choose a Japanese plan covering significant diseases and pre-existing conditions.

When paying for medical services, always use a credit card or offer to transfer the funds through a bank. Before traveling outside Japan, make sure your travel insurance covers all necessary care and fees for staying at a hospital in such cases.

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