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How does Japanese medical insurance work?


Medical insurance is a health insurance system that is mandatory for all Japanese nationals. It is also mandatory for aliens who have registered as resident aliens and intend to stay in Japan for more than a year. It is a mutual aid system, in which everyone pays their share of medical expenses. By showing your insurance card when receiving medical treatment for an illness or injury, you have to pay only 30% of the total costs of the treatment. The remaining 70% is covered by insurance.
Long-term medical treatments can cost you a large amount of money. It is important for you to be insured.

Different types of health insurance programs

The medical insurance system can generally be divided into social insurance and national health insurance programs. Social insurance is a program for the employees of corporations, government offices, schools, etc., and is also called “employees’ insurance” or “occupational insurance.” National health insurance, on the other hand, is for those who are self-employed, for instance in agriculture or in business, and is also called “regional insurance”. Anyone who is not covered by the health insurance program generally joins the national health insurance program. See below table for clarification.


All those who have permission to stay in Japan for a year or longer Social Insurance
(Shakai Hoken in Japanese)
Working for a corporation, government office, or school
National Health Insurance
(Kokumin Kenko Hoken in Japanese)
Are self-employed, such as in agriculture and in business, or unemployed


Contacts: (Please note that your contact institution differs depending on which insurance plan you subscribe to.)
Social Insurance: Ask the person in charge of the program at your place of work for details. National Health Insurance: National Health Insurance Section of your municipal office.

(Effective October 2009)

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