Through JET and the mandatory Japanese health plan, you are covered for 70% of all necessary health costs. This includes non-cosmetic dentistry, most health problems, and emergency care. Usually the 30% is small and certainly affordable. Simply show them your blue insurance card, and you will be covered!
In cases when the 30% is more than 5000 yen, you may also be able to apply for JET Accident Insurance, which will cover all expenses over 5000 yen. A claim must be filed in order to receive the reimbursement, so you will have to cover the initial cost yourself.
General Hospitals (byouin) in Japan are not necessarily only for emergencies and major illnesses. Japanese people may suggest going to the “hospital” when you have a cold, but they mean just to go visit the local doctor’s office or any clinic. The word “hospital” has a different nuance here in Japan. You may find that your Japanese colleagues go to “hospitals” for colds, headaches, or even general sluggishness. Kumamoto City also has a variety of specialized hospitals, such as Kinoh Hospital for bone and tissue damage and Fukuda Women’s Hospital. So if something terrible or unexpected should happen, never fear, there are ALTs who have been there before you who can point you in the right direction. Most hospitals and clinics will make you a card which you must have with you when you go to see a doctor. It is used when you arrive and you get it back when you pay for your visit. Often your Health Insurance card (hokensho) is required at the same time so keep them together in your wallet if you can.
If you want medication (even for the flu), it’s often cheaper to visit the doctor and get your prescription through the pharmacy, often attached to the clinic, than it is to go the drug store and pick out one yourself. Just be sure to take your Health Insurance card (hokensho) with you. A visit to the clinic to see a doctor about the flu will cost you around ¥1000 with your Health Insurance card and then approx another ¥300 to get some medication. It’s cheap and easy to do and you may find that your BOE will request you visit a doctor if you don’t feel well and want to take the day off. So keep those cards handy!
Japan Health Info
This is an incredible resource. They will locate an English speaking doctor in your area, for free, and can even make an appointment for you, (though that costs 1100Y). Highly recommended!
Eye exams in general are similar to your home country. You will usually be shown a series of “C’s” rotated in different directions, and you will have to say or point whether it is up, down, left, or right. If you can read hiragana and katakana, there may be a “What-Character-Is-This?” exam you can take as well.
Many places that sell glasses will check your eyes for free if you buy a pair. Glasses are not covered by insurance, but they are quite reasonably priced. I got an eye exam and two sets of frames & lenses for less than 1.5 man.
Dental care in Japan can be slightly different than what you are used to at home. Most procedures are done by dental technicians and the dentist is more of a supervisor. Also, it is common to be asked to return for multiple check-ups. Dentists may be much cheaper than dentists back at home, but some dentists will ask you to come again and again so they can get a little bit more money from the insurance. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are a crooked dentist, just a difference with the system here in Japan.
Unlike medical doctors where you can just drop in for a visit, you have to make an appointment with a dentist. 70% of most dental treatments are covered by the Japanese National Health Insurance so don’t forget your insurance card (hokensho). The remaining 30% is generally not covered by the supplementary JET insurance. A check up and clean will cost about￥2000. There are many many dentists all over Japan, even in the deepest inaka. A dentist that has been recommended, who speaks English quite well is Dr. Fukumoto at Angel Clinic, located behind the Kumamoto City Hall. The phone number is 096-324-0070.
Ask around and someone will be happy to recommend you a good dentist nearby! Some inaka dentists even speak a little English – often enough to explain what’s going on with that glamorous smile of yours!
Dermatology is similar to home but with less variety. You can expect the usual questions and less of a plethora of drugs and more of a holistic approach. The cost of the treatments and medicine is extremely cheap.