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A Closer Look at Free Choice

I'm late talking about this, but it's worth noting given Hoofin's recent comments on freechoice.jp and health insurance in Japan. After I was asked to take down a letter from a private insurance provider that I posted here, Hoofin went out and did some digging, and came up with a lot of interesting stuff.

  1. He found that freechoice.jp's Ron Kessler is connected to HealthOne Japan.
  2. In addition to HealthOne, Freechoice may also have links to other sites, including Legend Travel, Legend Travelers, and Nationalhealthinsurance.jp.
  3. After Hoofin starts connecting dots, Nationalhealthinsurance.jp goes offline.

If Hoofin's findings are accurate, it makes you wonder if Kessler is honestly fighting for the right for foreigners to choose between national and private health insurance schemes or if he's fighting to protect his health insurance companies or the stakes he may have in them.

The letter that I removed from the blog concluded by urging readers to visit http://www.freechoice.jp/immigration2.asp for more information.Although the page is about "breaking news," as far as I can tell, you can't access it from anywhere within freedomchoice unless you've received the letter or were told about the page by Kessler. Despite the internal fax that apparently softens Immigration's stance on having to enroll in either shakai hoken or kokumin kenko hoken, there's been no independent verification of this to my knowledge. As it stands, the revisions to Guideline 8 are still in effect and immigration offices have signs up reminding people of the changes starting in April.

Moreover, it's difficult to think that Kessler is lobbying the government for change in good faith when he writes on the main page of his website, "Free choice means having the right to choose. A non-Japanese who desires to be on public health care should also not be denied access to it." He's full of it. Foreigners are not being denied access to healthcare in Japan. It is your right and obligation to be enrolled in shakai hoken or kokumin kenko hoken If anything is wrong, it's two things: 1) ignorance by employees and 2) far too many employers, especially in eikaiwa, intentionally not informing their employees of their right to healthcare and foisting some other plan upon them that is no more than travel insurance in disguise.

Can we trust anything on the freechoice website? His claim about Guideline 8 being put on hold hasn't been verified by any other source. Given that he may have incentives to skew things toward private insurance due to his possible connections to HealthOne, the answer has to be, "No."

Comments

Shawn, thanks for the post. I have a question: My current company doesn't enroll foreign teachers in the governement schemes, but they do enroll the Japanese staff. I work above thirty five hours a week. Should my company be enrolling me, and if so, what should I do about it? I'd ask the General Union, but I don't believe that they'd give me an unbiased answer.

Thanks to anyone who answers me, as it is an important topic to a lot of people. I was already lied to by one company regarding this issue - NOVA - and I won't tolerate it again.

The Social Insurance Agency says:

You must be covered by the Employees’ Health Insurance if you work for a company or factory which employs 5 workers or more, or if you work for a HOJIN corporation, irrespective of your age or nationality. Specifically, a company or a factory here means one in business specified by law, such as manufacture or health and medical services.

You must be also covered if you are a part-time worker and if both your work days and your work hours are more than 3/4 of the regular workers in your workplace.

If you're working more than 35 hours a week, you probably should be enrolled in a public health insurance scheme.

Shawn
Let's Japan.org::Blog

Shawn,

Thanks, but to clarify do you mean that should be enrolled in the public health scheme by my employer, or I should enroll myself?

Not knowing the details of your employment, it sounds like your employer is supposed to enroll you. If they somehow wiggle out that obligation, your next choice is enroll yourself in kokumin kenko hoken.

Shawn
Let's Japan.org::Blog

I was thinking about this recently. One of the arguments that was put up about private health insurance was the issue of repatriation of your body should you die, or the cost of you flying home if there is a sudden, expected death in your family back home.

I'd be happy to join both Shakai Hokken and private health insurance if the private health insurance covered just the extra things that Shakai Hokken doesn't - much the same way private health insurance works in Australia (it covers the gaps that Medicare doesn't.) And so, I'd expect the private insurance to be a lot cheaper in the end. But then, it wouldn't be a worthwhile business because the premiums would be low enough to for just a few services.

But it's the law, and the responsibility of employer to enrol their employees. I just wish the pension options were better: sending the cash to my home pension scheme of more than 3 years value would be a good start.

The absolutely should have you in Shakai Hoken. Your current company is lying to you as bad as NOVA was.

Also, going off and getting the Kokumin is a good way to get a bill for two years back payment (or more).

The GU is, despite your qualms, probabaly your best bet.

To anonymous, my advice is to go and join KKH anyway. If they try to bill you the 2-years back enrollment, explain that your employer never put you in, and you only found out later that you were supposed to be in one or the other. After all, that's the truth, isn't it?

Once you are in kokumin kenko hoken, then you have leverage to get your employer to put you in the shakai hoken, if that is your goal. You should take the pension part too, because it will pay out as long as you have 25 years between Australia and Japan. So it your "superannuation" part, in a sense.

It is better for the local government insurance desk to call and get you in, than for you to do it yourself. You can always say that you had to get into KKH for the visa. And then, the local office had your information.

This way, it doesn't look like you agitating, which could get an employer upset (with you) if they are busy cheating and want to get away with it.

It is the back payments that I am not interested in. By the time I stopped being fed lies about the health insurance requirements in Japan by the various eikaiwa I worked for at the time, I was here for 2 years already.
I would gladly join the government schemes as long as the government realizes that it is partly their failure to crack down on eikaiwa years ago while continually allowing them to get through loopholes in the system that has caused part of the problem. I accept that eikaiwa workers (and any other workers in Japan) should be informed themselves, however had the government done its job years ago, this wouldn't be an issue today.
So, my solution, waive the back payments and watch as a decent amount of foreigners willingly come forward and join the system.

Thanks everyone for the advice. When I was at NOVA, in 2005 they changed our schedules because the NOVA union complained that NOVA should have been enrolling us in the insurance and pensions schemes. We ended up working a little less during the week, so NOVA didn't have to enroll us - this is from memory, so I may be foggy on the details. It makes me wonder if enrollment has to do with the hours worked during the week, and the time between lessons; the minutes in between lessons are counted as time not worked.

Am I right?

Thanks again

If you read the quote at the top of this post you will see that

"You must be also covered if you are a part-time worker and if both your work days and your work hours are more than 3/4 of the regular workers in your workplace."

A regular worker works 40 hours 3/4 of that is 30 hours. If you work less than 30 hours in a week you have no right to Shakai Hoken. If you work less than 30 hours it is your responsibility to enroll in kokumin kenko hoken.

What is the difference in cost you?

NOTHING

The cost of the two plans is the same for the employee. However if you are a full time employee and on Shakai Hoken your employer must match your pension plan payments. This probably makes a difference to people who want to work toward their retirement, but lets face it if you plan to retire in the Eikaiwa industry then you are making a big mistake.

I think having pension contributions from your employer is a good thing, but I think if you want that level of commitment from your employer you should be working a 40 hour week. If that is an option at your employer then take it and get on Shakai Hoken. If it is not then don't winge about it, just go out and get a full time job.

A few more notes on SH vs KKH:
SH provides wage protection which KKH does not. If you're sick/hurt more than two days, and can't work, you'll get 80% of your wage under SH.

SH also has a bigger payout if you take the lump sum payment if you leave.

The 3/4s rule is not the law, but a directive from the SIA for the line at which they must force a company to enroll people. They can't disallow enrollment under that line if you're working. The SIA has turned a blind eye to this in the past, but it seems they're waking up to the scam.

Finally, the 2 years back payments is unlikely to happen under SH. But if you go down to city hall and start asking questions about KKH, you'll quite probably get hit for it.

i would do the same thing..i have had NO insurance since nova died and i had to get my back checked once that cost me 2 bills...that i coudlnt afford...i know i am playing with fire every time i walk down the stairs..or get on my bike...(Insurance! A Waste Of Money..Until you Need It) ..and id love to get in line with the fascist food machine and get the Gubment insurance...but yeah..im dont feel as if i should,have to pay no 2 years of back fines..

you put the reality of the situation very clearly..thanks..

Cj

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