Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Enforcing Health Insurance

For those of you who don't live in Japan, let me clarify: all residents must be enrolled in either the National Health Insurance program (kenko kokumin hoken), the Social Insurance program (shakai hoken, for companies with 5+ employees), or a private plan. Many foreigners have found ways to circumnavigate this "requirement", however, as when you first register for a gaijin card, the desk clerk doesn't exactly wave a gun when telling you to go to the next counter and sign up for your insurance and pension.

According to Let's Japan, this may be about to change. Beginning in April 2010 there will be stricter enforcement for foreigners who find ways to slip out of hoken coverage, with consequences including having your visa revoked.

I had touched upon insurance in my Truth About AEON blogs; a few years ago, AEON was one of the many eikaiwa who kept their employees on just the right number of hours/week so as to not require insurance (as I mentioned, they tend to work you more than that anyway). A lot of companies do this without the government intervening, but sometimes it catches up to them. I believe now teachers at AEON are made aware of the insurance payments before arriving in Japan, but off and on for a few years, the company gave instructors a choice:

- Option A: Enroll in shakai hoken under your current terms of employment
- Option B: Change your contract hours to 29 hours and 30 minutes a week, keep the same salary, and not enroll in shakai hoken.
(Courtesy of Let's Japan)

Take it from someone who's broken his wrist in Japan: YOU WANT INSURANCE. Pay the extra 20,000-30,000 yen/month for that peace of mind. Unless you've got a travel insurance policy and are just exploiting loopholes in the insurance system to avoid paying for what you already have, sign up for National or Social Insurance. Can't say I enjoy paying into the pension, but with one comes the other...

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