Japan’s health insurance probe accused of ethnic prejudice

With only two possible cases of abuse since 2016, critics slam probe as discriminatory to non-Japanese

Japan’s health insurance probe accused of ethnic prejudice

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

A government probe into foreign residents’ alleged abuse of Japan’s public health insurance system has been accused of encouraging prejudice against non-Japanese.

Early this year, Japan’s health and justice ministries investigated cases of foreigners who allegedly obtained resident status fraudulently in order to benefit from the country’s public health insurance system, reported Japan Today. The probe was sparked by medical workers’ concerns that such abuse could be detrimental to the health system.

Since the probe was launched, it was unable to find a single confirmed case of foreigners with fraudulently obtained resident status abusing the system, leading critics to call for the termination of the probe.

“Conducting the probe itself gives the impression that there are many foreigners abusing the system,” Ippei Torii, head of the non-profit Solidarity Network with Migrants in Japan, told Japan Today.

“If the probe leads to foreign residents refraining from visiting hospitals, it will go against the spirit of the public health insurance system to offer medical services that are easily available to all residents.”

Since October 2016, 19 foreign residents have been found to have received expensive medical treatment, including prescriptions for hepatitis C medication, within six months of joining the national health insurance scheme, the report said.

Out of the 19, the investigation found only two cases where abuse of the health insurance system was possible. Japan had around 2.56 million foreign residents by end-2017.

Japan’s public health insurance system covers 70% of the costs incurred at medical institutions, while the policyholder shoulders the remaining 30%.

If there is doubt regarding a foreigner’s residential status, the Immigration Bureau will launch an investigation. The foreigner’s residential status can be revoked if they are found to have obtained it fraudulently.

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