Health and Wellbeing

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The healthcare system in Japan is relatively robust and more accessible than some JETs (Americans) might be used to, but it can be daunting to navigate through some of the processes. Here are some tips for health-related issues.

Japan Healthcare Info is an excellent resource that covers many common questions, including those surrounding documentation and insurance. Please note that the information here is for general reference only and may be outdated. For the latest information or immediate assistance, please contact a PA.


Emergencies

For ambulance or fire department services, dial 119.
For police services, dial 110.

To request an ambulance, say: kyuukyuusha onegai shimasu. (Address) ni kyuubyounin ga imasu. (“There is a medical emergency at (address). Please call an ambulance.”)

If you call from a house phone, emergency services can track your location.
If you call from a mobile phone, you will need to provide your location.

In the event of an emergency situation, contact your supervisor immediately. You should also notify CLAIR and your embassy directly if the nature of the situation calls for it, although your Contracting organization will do this for you if you are unconscious or missing.

As with all medical matters, you should prepare yourself for emergency situations:

  1. Always carry your National Health Insurance card.
  2. Know 24-hour, year-round hospitals and emergency hospitals in your area. Many clinics and facilities defined as hospitals (byouin) do not offer 24-hour service. GTIA has a list of hospitals open outside of normal business hours.
  3. Keep a list in your wallet and/or on your phone of any allergies or prescriptions, as well as a list of who to contact in an emergency (your supervisor, etc.). You can also add contacts prefixed with 緊急連絡 (kinkyuu renraku), or emergency contact, in your mobile phone.

Insurance

National Health Insurance

Most medical institutions accept National Health Insurance as a valid form of coverage. With coverage, 70% of the outstanding cost is covered, and the individual is responsible for paying the remaining 30%.

If your payment is more than ¥5,000, you are eligible for reimbursement through the JET Accident Insurance Policy. The JET Accident Insurance Policy also covers medical treatment that may occur when you travel outside of Japan. Be sure to keep all receipts, payment notices, and other documentation on file for when you make a claim. You must make your claim within 180 days of your first medical visit or within 180 days of sustaining your injury to receive reimbursement.

The following is a sample outline of a JET Programme Accident Insurance claim procedure:

  1. After receiving treatment, you pay the 30% required under the National Health Insurance policy. If your payment amount is between ¥5,000 and ¥700,000, you can file a claim for reimbursement.
  2. Either you or your supervisor should contact Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance (0120-881-018) to make your claim. You can request to speak to someone in English, but availability may be limited. You can find textual instructions on reporting your claim, including required documents and information, as well as other commonly-asked claims questions in “3. Claims Procedures” in your online copy of “Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme Accident Insurance Policy Guide”.
  3. Submit all required forms, information, and documentation (including original doctor’s receipts) to the insurance provider. They will investigate your claim and decide whether or not to provide reimbursement.
  4. If your reimbursement is approved, the money will be electronically deposited in the bank account you provided in your documentation within 1-2 weeks.
NIH Card
Your National Health Insurance card will usually arrive in the mail a few weeks after your initial arrival in Japan

Employment Insurance

In addition to National Health Insurance and the JET Programme Accident Insurance, you are also legally required to enroll in Employment Insurance. Employment Insurance is used in the event of unemployment, and while JETs are technically covered, it is unlikely you will ever need to make a claim.

Car and Bicycle Insurance

Please note that matters related to the operation of automobiles are not covered by National Health Insurance. If you intend to operate an automobile, you will need to purchase your own insurance separately.

As of April 1st, 2021, bike insurance is legally mandatory in Japan, and wearing a helmet is strongly advised. There have been many accidents and injuries involving bicycles among Gunma ALTs. Two major companies offer bicycle insurance (au and Seven-Eleven) for around an average of ¥5,000 per year. JET participants are already covered for injuries sustained while biking under the JET Accident Insurance (please see page 15 of the JET Accident Insurance Policy Guide for details).

VISITING A CLINIC

Many Japanese doctors can read English but are not very confident speaking it. Be prepared to describe your ailment in basic Japanese. If you are unable to communicate what you need in Japanese or cannot find an English-speaking doctor, you may want to take a co-worker or friend who can help you. The PAs can also provide first-time practical assistance if required.

Which Department/Specialist?

In Japan, clinics are divided into specialist departments, such as orthopedic surgery or dermatology, so you must decide which department to visit according to your symptoms. The closest equivalent of a general practitioner would be the naika (internal medicine).

For a full list of departments in English, please check Japan Healthcare Info.

Making an Appointment

Some places have websites, but the primary method for booking an appointment is by phone. As some places do not accept walk-ins, it is best to call ahead of time. They may confirm the purpose of your visit over the phone. First-time patients are sometimes required to show up during a specific time-frame, so please confirm. If you need help with making an appointment, please consult with your CO supervisor or the PAs.

First-time Visits

When first visiting a clinic/hospital, you will be asked to show your National Insurance Card and to fill out a standard patient intake form, where you will write down your general medical history, allergies, current symptoms, and any medications you are taking.

Clinics and hospitals in Japan have certain differences. In many cases, you will need a referral in order to see a doctor at a larger hospital. If you go to a hospital without a reference, you may be charged a fee (typically a few thousand yen).

  • Clinics: When you arrive, hand in your National Health Insurance Card to the front desk (受付 uketsuke) and let them know if it is your first time (はじめてです hajimete desu). You will be asked to fill out a registration form with your contact info and medical history. You will then be called into the doctor’s office. When your appointment has concluded, you will be brought back into the waiting room where the receptionist will call your name to make a payment. They will return your National Health Insurance card as well as give you a clinic card (診察券 shinsatsuken). You will also either receive your medication or a prescription to exchange for medication at a pharmacy. Pharmacies are normally located near the clinic.
  • Hospitals: When you visit a hospital, you will likely fill out some paperwork as a first-time patient and wait for your name to be called. The staff will tell you how to get to the department you requested and at some point, you will also receive a hospital card. When you get to your specified department, submit your hospital card. You will potentially have to fill out more paperwork before you are seen by the doctor. At the end of the visit, you will get your hospital card back and return to the reception area to make your payment and receive medication.
shinsatsuken
After your first visit, you will receive a clinic card (shinsatsuken) registered under your name to use for any subsequent visits

Using Byokyu (病休)

Byokyu, or sick leave, is viewed as being reserved for cases of serious illness or injury requiring hospitalization or stay-at-home care. Japanese employees wouldn’t normally take sick leave to go to the doctor for a check-up or to stay home for a day. A common case for using sick leave would be if an individual contracts influenza and is told not to go to work for several days. Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of your CO when/how you can use sick leave, so it’s a good idea to clarify with your supervisor. You may also be required to provide a doctor’s certificate upon resuming work if byokyu is used, even if you only take a single day off.

For more information on taking leave, check out the Holidays and Leave page.

Annual Physical Exam

Under National Health Insurance coverage, each individual is guaranteed at least one free physical examination per year. This is a legally obligated requirement, and employees can be punished by their employer if they do not complete the health check.

Your Contracting Organization or school will usually notify you of the timing and location. Employees have the right to go to a medical institution of their choice to get a health check done privately and submit the results if preferred, but you may have to pay out-of-pocket for this option.

The examination will almost always consist of a health questionnaire, a physical examination to detect symptoms of illness, height/weight/vision/hearing checks, a chest X-ray, saliva test, blood pressure check, anemia inspection, blood lipid and glucose test (will require taking blood), liver function test, urine analysis, and an electrocardiogram test. These examinations can seem invasive to some people, as you may simply be guided through a set of stations in a marching line, and some stations (such as the echo and X-ray) will require the removal of clothing. For this reason, it’s recommended you wear clothing that’s easy to remove and avoid dresses or one-piece clothing.

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MENTAL HEALTH

Living and working in another country can be difficult at the best of times, and asking for help can sometimes seem impossible. If you are having any issues at work or in your private life, remember that the following resources are made to and should be used.

JET Mental Health Counselling Assistance Programme

This program provides a partial subsidy (50%, up to ¥30,000 per year) for counseling costs incurred through consultation with mental health professionals in Japan not covered by health insurance. Please ask your contracting organization or one of the PAs for more information, or check the latest Clair News email.

JET Online Counselling Service

JET participants are able to receive free professional counseling through WebMail and Skype, as part of the JET Online Counselling Service established by CLAIR. There is no limit to how many times the WebMail Counseling system can be used, and up to seven Skype Counselling sessions can be received. While this service is anonymous, participants need a password for access. Please ask your contracting organization or one of the PAs for more information, or check the latest Clair News email.

JET Telephone Counselling

JET Programme participants are able to call a free-call service to receive counseling. This service is limited to the third Wednesday of every month from 5:30 pm – 9 pm, and only one phone call is allowed per day (no annual limit). No advance reservation is required. Please ask your contracting organization or one of the PAs for more information, or check the latest Clair News email.

This service has been expanded during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Counseling is now available every Wednesday between 13 January and 3 March 2021.

Tokyo English Life Line (TELL)

TELL is a nonprofit organization that offers free and anonymous phone counseling and information.
Online Chat or Phone: 03-5774-0992 (daily from 9:00am to 11:00pm)

AJET PSG (AJET Peer Support Group)

The AJET Peer Support Group (PSG) is a confidential listening and resource line for JET participants. Staffed by trained volunteers, a member of PSG is available at night when other services are often unavailable, 365 days a year via telephone or Skype. All calls are confidential and callers can remain anonymous.
Phone: 050-5534-5566 (daily from 8:00 pm to 7:00 am)
Skype: Contact the username “AJETPSG” (daily from 8:00 pm to 7:00 am)

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