A coworker of mine recently went to a dentist in NYC to treat her cavity and it cost her close to $1,000 (folks in Japan, that’s almost equivalent to 118,130 yen in today’s foreign exchange rate!). No she didn’t get a gold filling and neither did she get her entire teeth replaced. This was outrageous for my coworker who is Japanese because you don’t pay that kind of money to dentists in Japan. In Japan, medical costs are lower than it is in U.S., and on top of that, your co-pay is generally 30% of the cost. The other 70% is paid by your insurer. That’s why we only pay a few hundred to maybe two thousand yen for a trip to a dentist in Japan. So how do you become covered by this insurance? There are two major ways but I’ll only cover one today and that’s by being employed.
Under Health Insurance Law Article 35, employees are automatically enrolled and covered by health insurance from the first day of work. You probably won’t have your health insurance registration card （健康保険被保険者証）on the first day of work because your company’s HR normally needs a week or two to complete paperwork in order for the Social Insurance Office （社会保険事務所） to issue a card for you. But even if you don’t physically have the card with you, you’re already covered and are entitled to all benefits offered.
What often happens (and I’ve dealt with this a lot) is that your child (or any dependant that you claimed on your health insurance) gets sick while your company’s HR is taking their sweet ass time getting your card issued. And without presenting the card to your doctor, you’ll be required to pay 100% of the cost. What do you do? Get your HR to issue you a temporary certificate （健康保険被保険者適用証明書） that proves that you’re an employee of the company and that you’re enrolled in its health insurance program. If your HR is competent enough (and assuming that they’re not swamped with work and that you’ve provided them with all the information they asked from you at the time of hiring), it shouldn’t take them more than 30 min to do this for you. Present this to your doctor and it should have the same effect as presenting them the health insurance registration card.
Thinking about working in Japan? Preparing to move overseas almost becomes a full-time job in the final weeks of your departure. Many people quit their jobs weeks before so they can devote their time to preparation. But what about your health insurance? Short-term health insurance plans are a great solution. ↓
Below are links to Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants providing services in English. Also below are useful links related to working in Japan and links to women balancing career and personal happiness. WJA realizes and promotes women's increasing value in the labor market.