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Thursday, July 25, 2002

LIFELINES

Health insurance, pension cash claims and odd-job search


It's been quite surprising to receive so many "thank yous" from readers, but more surprising has been that they come not only from Japan but from all over the the world. It seems a lot of people who have lived in Japan in the past and moved on read the column at www.japantimes.co.jp to keep up on things over here. That's great. We are counting on you old-hands all over the world but with your heart still in Japan to let us in on your tips, ideas and experiences from your many years in Japan.

Dennis in Higashi Kurume writes: "I have been living in Japan for a number of years and have been included in my company health insurance program -- not the Japanese National Health Insurance, though. I am thinking of returning home in the next four or five years, I would like to join a health insurance program that will cover me while I am here in Japan. And will I be able to continue once I return to the U.S. Does such a health insurance program exist?"

The insurance system in Japan has been significantly liberalized over the past few years so it is much easier to put together such a program.

One such provider who has been doing this for years in Japan is Pacific Star Insurance. They work to put together plans for the international community in Japan. You can contact them at 048-479-2317 and talk to Mr. Mine.

In addition AIG, the worldwide insurance group can help you. You can check them out online at www.aig.com or www.aig.co.jp. Don Kanak, the president, can get you started. Send him an E-mail at: kanak@aig.co.jp.

Further, Zurich Insurance offers many of the same services and is Swiss-based. You can find them at www.zurich.com or www.zurich.co.jp and their president, Manuel A.F. Eichmann, or "Many", is at jpzme@zurich.co.jp.

Keith in Matsumoto writes: "I am currently getting ready to move back to my home in the U.S. after 4 years of service in Matsumoto, Nagano. Filling out my pension claim form from the Social Security Agency, I noticed that it's payment rate goes to 36 months of employment. I asked my supervisor what happened to my final year of pension that I paid into and he said that I don't get it back. He and no one else has any explanation as to why I only get 36 months back and not the full 48. Do you have an explanation for this?"

A good question! In fact, you used to not get anything back. A couple years ago a compromise was made so you can receive three years back of what you have paid into the Social Insurance System when you leave Japan.

The reason for this is that an agreement has not been signed between your country and Japan to equalize social insurance systems. Many other countries have already done this, so paying into one is equalized with the other. Negotiations have been underway for years. You can check with your embassy to see when they expect the agreement to be completed, but it should be a couple more years.

You might be interested in attending the "Living long term in Japan" seminar put on by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan every year, where they invite officials from the ministries involved, the embassies and others to help with these kinds of questions. You can reach them at 03-3433-5381 or www.accj.or.jp.

Uta writes: "I'm searching for a handyman service. After completing a remodeling and renovating job a few years ago, a good number of various minor tasks remain undone in our apartment. I am therefore not looking for a designer company but just some help with finishing things off, like adding or taking away shelves, fixing towel racks in the bathroom and various items onto concrete walls, like hat racks, curtain rods etc.

You've hit on a tough one. These days there just isn't anyone who does that type of thing anymore. You're supposed to do it yourself.

The place to get the items you are wanting is Tokyu Hands (03-5489-5111).

Trying to find a prayer group in Tokyo? Send a note to pray@kirisuto.com. They have a weekly group meeting in central Tokyo and would be happy to welcome you.

A regular to us at The Japan Helpline ( www.jhelp.com ) is the person searching for somebody who can take care of your hair. Look no further than YS Park. They are online at www. yspark. co. jp and have places in Hiroo, Roppongi, Omotesando and more. Give Jun a call at 03-5793-3335.

A woman in Japan and trying to get "connected"? Send a note to Caroline Pover. Her Web site at www. beingabroad. gol. com is a wealth of information.

And finally, an inexpensive place to stay as well as get away in, of all places, Roppongi is the International House of Japan ( www.i-house.or.jp ). Kind innkeeper, Mr. Matsumoto will answer any questions on 03-3470-4611.

lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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