Are you living with a chronic illness and dreaming of moving to Japan? Or maybe you have a job lined up and are concerned about regularly shipping your medication from overseas? Perhaps the medication availability in Japan isn’t a problem, but the cost is burning a hole in your wallet.
If you’re nodding “yes,” we have good news: the Japanese government and municipalities provide subsidies for over 100 diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and C, and epilepsy, to name a few. And if the thought of a pile of paperwork written in Japanese sends your stress level up, we simplify the process for expats in Japan.
Joe, an expat from the United Kingdom with Crohn’s disease, intended to go to Japan for work but then realized that the cost of continuing his medication—Humira, in the form of twice-weekly injections—would be ¥42,000 per month, or about 20% of his monthly gross salary.
With Joe’s condition, not using the medication wasn’t an option. “Without Humira I would likely relapse and my life would be seriously affected for the worse,” he explained. “I would probably be unable to work for a protracted period of time and could potentially be permanently affected. This could include partial removal of my bladder or bowel and the addition of a colostomy bag.”
After unsuccessfully scouring the internet for hours, he stumbled on Japan Healthcare Info (JHI). We helped him acquire the medical subsidy—a process that generally takes one to three months. Joe described the process as effortless:
“Everything was arranged for me. JHI contacted an English-speaking specialist in Crohn’s Disease. Translated all of the forms. Made multiple phone calls. They checked and completed all of the subsidy forms, called the local medical services office, emailed me regularly to make sure I knew what was going on. They have been truly amazing and I am eternally grateful to them.”
The medical subsidy also changed Coulter’s life abroad. Diagnosed with epilepsy at age four, his condition has been manageable, despite the episodes increasing throughout his life. Several months after brain surgery he got his doctor’s “okay” and left the United States for a job in Japan with medication for three months.
After struggling to find a doctor, Coulter approached JHI. “Sara replied the same day saying that she would help,” he said, “A few days went by and she contacted me again with a list of nearby doctors and which ones spoke English. I chose a doctor and JHI made an appointment for me.”
Sara from JHI acted as a translator at the appointment, and after noticing the cost of Coulter’s medication—over ¥60,000 for two and a half months’ worth, which was only 30% of the actual cost before insurance—she suggested applying for a medical subsidy. Coulter found the process simple:
“JHI did almost all the work for me. All I had to do was sign a piece of paper and get the doctor to approve my qualification for the card. After all the paperwork was submitted it took about two to three months to get the subsidy card, but it was worth the wait. My medication only costs ¥5000 a month now. I do need to renew once a year or if I move to a new city since the money for the medication, in my case, comes from city hall.”
Joe and Coulter are just two of the people JHI has helped acquire and benefit from a medical subsidy. If you are living in Japan with a chronic illness and paying a large sum for your medication, you may be eligible to receive one of three different medical subsidies, depending on your condition and health insurance status.
The nanbyo, or incurable disease, subsidy, may be used for diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), to name just a few of the 306 conditions that fall under this category.
The municipal government’s subsidy, supported by the prefecture you live in, can be used for for illnesses such as Hepatitis B or C, tuberculosis, epilepsy and various mental health conditions. This subsidy can also be used for fertility treatments if you meet the prerequisites.
The third category is a general subsidy (benefit)—called kougaku iryouji, that applies to all insurance-covered conditions, outpatient and inpatient services. Rheumatoid arthritis is one example.
Some mental illnesses also may qualify for one of the subsidies, depending on a doctor’s assessment. Examples include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, mood disorder, mental retardation, neurotic disorder, among others.
It is important to note that you will not be automatically notified of your eligibility to receive a subsidy. Each patient is responsible for pursuing this process with their medical provider(s)—this includes all of the paperwork, which is all in Japanese and can often be complicated. But as with Joe and Coulter, we at JHI can help you each step of the way and take care of that paperwork for you.
With a nanbyo or municipal subsidy, you can expect to pay no more than ¥30,000 per month, dependent on income. For example, if you’re a student, have no fixed income and don’t owe residential tax, you likely wouldn’t pay anything. If you make make more than ¥7 or 8 million per year you would pay the maximum out-of-pocket amount.
Children under age 17 can also take advantage of a medical subsidy in Japan if they have certain conditions, like pediatric cancer or heart disease. Out-of-pocket payment is, again, determined by income.
To talk with someone about your specific situation and to find out more about applying to receive a medical subsidy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information presented above is for educational purposes only. Actual cost and fees will differ for each patient’s condition and circumstances are subject to change by law.