The Japanese government is considering setting stricter rules to limit the coverage of the national health insurance for foreign workers in Japan. Family members who do not live in Japan will no longer be covered by the insurance.
As a general rule, the current public medical insurance system offers services not only to Japanese nationals but also to foreign nationals living in Japan. Under the health insurance program, family members within the third degree of kinship, including children and grandchildren, are considered as dependents of insurance holders. This means that those who live outside of Japan are still eligible to receive the coverage.
At the moment, the government is looking to reform the immigration law in preparation of accepting more foreign workers. Once the new immigration law is implemented and new visa status of residence categories are created, more foreign workers are expected to relocate to Japan. If that is the case, it is possible that the costs to cover the medical treatment of their family members overseas would ultimately put a great deal of pressure on government finances.
Taking this into consideration, the government is preparing to narrow down the definition of “dependent” in their health insurance program, and family members living overseas will no longer be covered, regardless of their nationality.
Generous insurance programs and other employee benefits have been one of the main appeals of working in Japan. With the revision of the Health Insurance Act, family members of foreign workers who live in their home countries will likely be excluded from the health insurance program, which could discourage foreign nationals who wish to come and work in Japan.
[Reference] Health insurance will only be available to family members living in Japan, in response to more foreign workers
[Reference] Government to revise medical insurance system to exclude family members of foreign workers living overseas