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Ebisu, Tokyo

15 Expats Talk about Health Insurance and Healthcare in Japan

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 02, 2023

Summary: The quality of medical care in Japan is generally considered to be very high, with a strong emphasis on preventative care. Japan has a well-developed healthcare system, with a wide range of medical services available. In comparison to the US, Japan has a higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate. Emergency services in Japan are generally reliable and efficient. Ambulances can be called by dialing 119, and the operator will be able to provide assistance in English. Ambulances are usually equipped with the latest medical technology and staffed with highly trained medical personnel.

William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

How are healthcare services Japan?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Japan, they replied:

"I tell them that everyone is under the same health insurance and not to worry about choosing from medical insurance plans. Also, for those with chronic diseases, I would advise them to check if their medicine and care is available in Japan, as a lot of medicine that is available in America is not available in Japan," added another expat.

"Research clinics and hospitals online that are English-speaking beforehand. Contact clinics to ask if they perform certain procedures. Learn some common words to ask for specific things if you have to go to a Japanese-speaking clinic or hospital. Hospitals will not coddle you - you must advocate for yourself and be firm if you are having certain issues. Otherwise they may rush you out after a quick once-over," commented one expat who moved to Tokyo.

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"It is difficult to find English speaking health providers, but they do exist. The healthcare culture is very rushed and you must be clear about what you need, otherwise the doctor isn't going to take the time to figure it out for you," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Japan?

"My experience is that the national health insurance is great and easy to enroll in and easy to use. The insurance is reasonably priced and covers 70% of most medical needs. I have not had a problem with the healthcare system yet. I make sure to find an establishment that provides English support and everything is much smoother for me," commented one expat living in Tokyo, Japan.

"I have Social Health Insurance that my job helped set up for me. It's accepted pretty much everywhere as it's a public insurance. I have only needed to do something preventative, though, so I have only paid for medical service in its entirely before," added another expat.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Japan

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What are emergency services like in Japan?

When we asked about emergency services, members in Japan wrote:

"You for an ambulance by dialing 119. Tokyo is a huge city so I cannot give a recommendation on the best hospitals, as there are a lot of hospitals to choose from and they vary in their care and speciality. I would advise someone to find a hospital that provides English support if they are not comfortable communicating solely in Japanese," said one expat living in Tokyo.

"Emergency services are common and can be accessed by calling 119 for a fire or ambulance and 110 for police. I am a 20 minute public transit ride away from several different hospitals, or a 10 minute drive. The best hospitals in the city are The University of Tokyo Hospital and St. Luke's International Hospital. I am unfamiliar with their care as I have not had to visit yet," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Will I need to travel to see a specialist?

"Since Tokyo is such a big city, I would say that people rarely have to leave Tokyo for speciality service or care. You may be moved within Tokyo, but I would be surprised is you were moved out of Tokyo," said one expat living in Tokyo.

"Expats likely go anywhere that has English speakers. Healthcare is good here. People only have to pay 30% of reasonable costs for anything covered. Unfortunately, the public healthcare here does not cover anything preventative. Since I still have active health insurance in America, I have visited there to get a child prevention measure done - completely covered," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

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Are common prescription medications available in Japan?

"There are pharmacies in every neighborhood and they are easily accessible and reasonably priced. However, being in Japan, some medications may not be available or provided. Therefore, check which medications are available before moving to Japan," said one expat living in Tokyo.

"Pharmacies are usually attached to hospitals or clinics and require prescriptions. There are drugstores for over-the-counter medicine. Prescription medicine is priced pretty low, depending on what coverage and costs you are used to," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

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"There is a hospital about 15 minutes from my home. Hospitals are everywhere and are accessible. Every hospital I have been to has been of good quality and if it is public or private varies by case," said an expat in Tokyo.

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As a foreigner living in Japan, will I have access to public healthcare? What is it like?

"There is a national health insurance that everyone (expats and Japanese people) is enrolled in. Its cost is based off of your previous year’s income. It covers 70% of most medical costs, but preventative care is not covered (flu shots, checkups, etc.). There are public and private hospitals available," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

"I have Social Health Insurance as an full-time employee. National Health Insurance also exists if one's job does not pay for half of insurance. Everyone is entitled to public insurance and may enroll if a resident. It costs me about 5% of my salary (and my employer pays another 5%) based on my salary in the previous year. I was enrolled with no questions of my pre-existing conditions. There are public hospitals, but I have not been to one yet. It is often the case that people with some health issue will go to a local, small practitioner that specializes in that field," commented one expat who moved to Tokyo, Japan.

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What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?

We asked expats in Japan if they have access to public healthcare in Japan. And, if they do have access, what is it like. They wrote...

"Clinics and hospitals have had rules to enter their facilities, like masking, distancing, making sure you're not experiencing symptoms," remarked another expat in Tokyo.

"Tokyo has managed it very well, and during this outbreak, the standard of medical care there has been superb," remarked another expat living in Tokyo.

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What advice do you have for expats having a baby in Japan?

We asked expat moms who gave birth in Japan about their experiences and advice they have for other moms to be. They said:

"Start by consulting with your doctor to learn about the medical system options available, such as national health insurance or private health insurance policies, and importance of registering the birth with local municipality offices. Research birthing options and find an OBGYN you can be comfortable with who is experienced in birth in Japan. Learn about maternity care options and gather information on the laws and regulations relevant to baby care in your area. Make sure to keep your passport documents and baby book up to date to help facilitate the process of obtaining a passport for your baby. Be sure to create a Japanese will and guardianship for your child, and consider opening a bank account and investing in a life insurance policy. Lastly, consider joining a parenting group or community forums to make connections and establish relationships with other expat parents," explained one expat.

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Are healthcare services good in Japan?

We asked people if they have access to good medical care in Japan. They wrote:

"Healthcare services in Japan are of a high quality and the government runs a universal health care system that guarantees basic healthcare provision to all citizens and registered foreign residents. The system is funded by taking a significant portion of people’s wages and taxes. There are over 70,000 hospitals and other medical facilities throughout the country, most of which are owned by private companies. These medical institutions offer a wide range of services including specialist consultation, hospitalization, radiology and imaging, surgeries, and home care. In recent years there has been a growing focus on preventative care, with an increasing amount of medical institutions offering check-ups and health screenings. Japan also has a strong tradition of alternative medicine, such as acupuncture and traditional herbal remedies, which are widely practised in many parts of the country," remarked another in Japan.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Ebisu, Tokyo

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