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Travel Insurance For Japan Turned More Important Than Ever

Japanese Hospitals struggling to deal with unpaid medical bills from foreigners visiting the country.


Japan. A More Than Appealing Destination.

Japanese tourism is growing. With its picturesque temples in contrast to ultramodern urban cities, 21 world heritage sites and rocking cultural peculiarities Japan has set itself as the perfect destination in recent years. The Asian country was ranked 21st position in a global tourism rating last year; attracting 28.69 million international tourists in 2017. And with Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, Japanese government is expecting to double this figure in 2020.


Japanese Hospitals Unable to Cope With Foreigners’ Debts

Tourism increase have left Japanese authorities disoriented and although the government is taking measures to deal with foreigners’ medical assistance, initiatives are still basic. Apart from foreigners being encouraged to take out travel insurance and hospitals assisting patients in different languages, foreigners’ assistance management is practically non-existent. The main problem lies in foreigners that have received treatment in Japanese hospitals leaving the country without paying large medical bills.

The issue is not limited to tourists skipping out without paying, other non-national residents (mainly coming from regions such as Taiwan and China) are also benefiting from Japanese emergency services without paying the bill. It’s worth noting that most foreigners leave debts not because they want to but because they are currently unable to make electronic payments as the hospitals only accept cash.

The total debt owed is reaching alarming levels and Japanese authorities are starting showing their discontent. According to a survey carried out by the Japanese ministry 35% of Japanese medical centres that treated foreigners in an emergency were unable to collect payments. Nevertheless, hospitals’ managers insist in assisting foreigners as they remain a strong income source. Although the foreign debt is high, international patients are vital for healthcare businesses as Japanese population has considerably declined over the last few decades.

Some health centres in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya such as Iwai Medical Hospital or the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine have already made public submissions to encourage the government to establish a more strict law for foreigners visiting Japan.


Cashless Payment Allowance and Japanese Travel Insurance

The government has already begun efforts to deal with unpaid medical bills from foreigners. Measures to fight the foreign medical debt are planned to be implemented with the new fiscal system that will be launched in the beginning of 2019.

The protective measures focus is put in allowing hospitals to accept card payments. Some hospitals have started breaking this rule by accepting card payments already in an attempt to avoid foreign default. Ironically, buying travel insurance prior travelling to Japan is not mandatory yet. The new law will be addressing this issue too.


Medical Bill Defaulters Denied Re-Entry

Japanese health ministry is currently analysing the situation in order to model a new foreign scheme. The new law is very likely to deny travellers with medical debts higher than approximate 500 pounds the re-entry to the country. Not only that, the Immigration Control will be also punishing the previous travellers that left Japan without paying their medical bills.

Koichi Haguida - a well-known Japanese politician - recently declared:

“We cannot say Japan is oriented to tourism till a proper tourism law system for visitors is finally established”


Inbound Insurance For Visitors To Japan

According to a recent survey carried out by the Japan Tourism Agency, approximately 30% of tourists entered Japan without holding travel insurance.

As the fiscal reform will not come into effect until 2019, having a travel insurance policy in place is not mandatory to visit the country yet. However, many insurers in Japan have cleverly adapted their policies to the current situation coming up with tempting Inbound Insurance options, which are principally sold through travel operators such as hotels and tourist agencies.

Inbound Insurance refers to low cost policies which provide with very basic medical coverage. Although there are many reliable Japanese insures, not all inbound offers are trustworthy. Some companies offer very appealing premium packages but the plans are often not clearly worded and have restrictive clauses. At HCI we advise you to select your insurance policies carefully and to check the details, you don’t want to find yourself uninsured for the things that are most important to you.

Compulsary travel insurance in Japan will be established by the beginning of next year. However, if you are planning to visit Japan in the meantime it’s advisable to buy a travel policy that guarantees full coverage.

HCI offers a reliable travel cover to Japan as well as other Far East countries.

Interested? You can check our travel plans out on this page.