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Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

LIFELINES

Insuring your health; ensuring your privacy


Health concerns

Health continues to be a regular source of your questions. The issue was really brought home to me the other day when, following a 10-hour flight, with no sleep, I got up to give a speech and couldn't speak nor remember what I was supposed to stay.

It was really scary and I thought I had had a stroke. I am still doing various tests.

Specifically, the doctor said "too much stress and not enough sleep."

As we at The Japan Helpline operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, I realized I haven't slept a night through because of calls coming for many, many years.

Well, nothing like a good health scare to get your attention and slow you down. Please be careful. Life is too short. Don't become like me!

Insurance

Dear Lifelines; I would like a definitive answer as to whether the Japanese National Health Insurance covers you outside of Japan. -- JPS in Japan

You are asking a very simple question, but the answer is a little bit more complicated. As with everything in Japan, there is the official answer and there is the functional answer.

The official answer, straight from the Ministry is this -- yes, the Japanese National Health Insurance (Kokumin Kenko Hoken) covers you anywhere in the world with the following important caveat -- it covers you for the amount that the treatment would cost if you had it done in Japan and you pay first and are reimbursed.

In other words, you are covered but covered very specifically. When you return you will be asked to submit your receipts and the treatment you received and you will be reimbursed to the amount of the equivalent treatment in Japan. Good, but not great.

The gray area has to do with what is covered. You cannot go overseas specifically for treatment -- you are only covered for illness, and accidents that happen overseas.

As always, we would like to hear from our readers. Has anyone out there been reimbursed for payment overseas? How did it go? Please let us know.

Privacy

I have the same address for home and office and would like to be private with some of my letters. Is there a way to get a PO Box in Japan? -- Mr. Private

There is and it's no farther than your local post office.

You can "rent" a post office box at your local post office for no charge. A couple of qualifiers, though -- not all post offices have Post Office Boxes, but most of the medium size ones do. You will need to give a reason why you need one. The reason the Post Office gives PO Boxes from their perspective is that it saves them from having to deliver your mail.

You will have the greatest possibility of being approved if you ostensibly use it for business, letting them know, for example, that you receive a lot of mail and would like to be able to pick it up at the post office. We have had a PO Box for many years and never paid a penny for it.

Information

Some good news from Peter Van Buren, our ever hard working Citizen Services Director at the U.S. Embassy, who has just set up a new Japanese language Web site at j.tokyoacs.com (Yup, that's it without the usual www) and a new daily notarial service for Japanese (it used to be only on Wednesday) information at tokyoacs.com.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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