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Info to keep in your back pocket! Japan’s Medical System

During the long period of time that you study abroad, even if you’re careful, you might get sick or injured. Here, we’ve put together some vital information for life in a different country: how to search for hospitals that offer multilingual services, how to use medical translation services, Japan’s medical insurance system, and more.

■Medical Checkups: See a specialist
Unlike in other countries, in Japan, hospitals have a clear specialty. Even within the field of internal medicine, specialties are further divided amongst cardiologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, and so on, and patients select their doctor’s office based on their ailments. (For details, please see “An explanation of medical departments” on this page) Please note that there are not general practicioners, as there are in Western countries. However, if your illness isn’t serious, the hospital or clinic may be able to treat you, even if it is outside of their specialty.

*Kobe City offers a multilingual consultation hotline, as well as a consultation hotline to use when you need to know what hospitals are open/whether or not to call an ambulance.

After your consultation, get a prescription for medicine if necessary. You can purchase your prescription medicines at drug stores either close to the doctor’s office, or close to your house, but prescriptions have an expiration date, so be sure not to forget!

■Medical Interpreting Services: Reservations are required
Some hospitals offer foreign language interpreting services, but these require reservations. If you suddenly become sick and aren’t able to make a reservation in advance, you can use a free phone interpretation service, as long as you call within business hours. There are also many hospitals that are able to assist patients in English, so it’s a good idea to check out English-speaking hospitals in advance. No matter what, we recommend carrying the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s Multilingual Medical Questionnaire with you.

Kobe medical facilities that can help patients in English
JNTO Search for medical institutions that offer multilingual support

■Medical Fees: In general, you’ll have to pay one-third
In Japan, people aged 6 to 69 who are enrolled in medical insurance will generally pay one third of their medical bills. There are several different types of insurance, but non-full-time employees will enroll in National Health Insurance (Kokumin Kenko Hoken), and full-time workers are insured with the Japan Health Insurance Association (Kyokai Kenpo) or Society-Managed Health Insurance (Kenko Hoken Kumiai). As a result, the total cost of medical examinations that don’t include special exams or the purchase of medicine is generally around 2,000 yen.

Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan


■Japan’s National Health Insurance: Signing up is required
Foreigners who stay in Japan for more than three months are required to register their residence and enroll in National Health Insurance. Register your residence at the city or ward office where you’ll be living within 14 days of entering Japan. Once you’ve done that, you can sign up for National Health Insurance. With insurance, as stated above, you’ll only have to pay one third of your medical bills, and if you medical bills become extremely expensive, once they exceed a certain threshold, you can apply to have the amount above that threshold paid for you. However, people who stay in Japan for a period less than three months do not qualify for the above insurance, and will need to apply for their own travel insurance.

Insurance premiums are calculated based on one’s previous year salary in Japan. If it’s difficult for your to pay this, if you apply, you may be granted a deferment/exemption on your insurance premium, so please consult with your city or ward office. Similarly, foreigners who stay in Japan for longer than three months are required to sign up for the national pension service. For this, too, there is a system through with students can apply to have their payments deferred.

Insurance sign-ups can be handled together with residence registration at your city or ward office.

National Health Insurance in Kobe City
Information for Foreign Residents of Hyogo Prefecture

■Linguistic Support: Free services are available
If you’re worried about signing up for insurance, etc. in Japan, contac the Kobe International Community Center. The center contracts free interpreters for foreign residents using public institutions.

*There are some cases for which interpreters cannot be contracted, such as for medical consultations or court cases, so please check with the link above.

And there you have a bit about Japan’s medical system! Of course, it’s best if nothing happens, but before something does, take a look at the services and hospitals available in the area where you’re living, or want to live. (See information on Kobe City here) We hope you’ll have a safe and peaceful time in Japan!