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Health Insurance in Japan: A Guide for Overseas Employers

A frequent question that comes up for international assignments is how to manage health insurance for employees.  It is important to have adequate coverage in the foreign location, even if there is a health plan in place at home, and in some cases an employee might need both policies.

Recently an employee of one of our clients had a question about health insurance in Japan.  The employee was paying insurance premiums in Japan through our local employer of record, while at the same time paying for coverage in the United States.  Naturally, they wanted to stop paying the US premiums if the Japan coverage was enough.

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Japanese Health Insurance Options

There are two types of health insurance in Japan: National Health Insurance (NHI) and Employee’s / Social Health Insurance (SHI).  NHI is available for non-residents who stay longer than 3 months in Japan, but is mostly used by students or freelancers.  SHI is often offered to full-time employees through their Japanese employer.

Either one of these will provide coverage in Japan, but not in other countries.  Likewise, foreign insurance policies are not valid in Japan.

Is Dual Coverage Necessary in Both the Home and Host Country?

For many long term foreign assignments, the host country insurance coverage is all that would be needed if the employee were to remain in the country.  For example, a Japanese policy is sufficient for health care in Japan.

The issue in this case, is that the employee was traveling to the US frequently while on assignment in Japan, so the Japanese insurance policy would not cover them if they were to become ill or injured in the US.  So, we had to advise the employee that they would need to keep their US insurance coverage for their trips home, as well as the Japanese policy.

Shield GEO Solution

This is one example of how Shield GEO makes use of in-country experts and local partners to support your international assignments.  We advise our clients and their staff on assignment on how to handle setting up insurance coverage, obtaining work permits and running payroll in the host country.


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