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Tuesday, July 6, 2004

LIFELINES

Healthcare overseas and pension cares


Overseas health

I have heard that under some circumstances it is possible to use National Health Insurance Coverage outside of Japan. Is this true? If so, under what circumstances?

Yes, you can use your "kokumin kenko hoken" abroad. What happens is, you must pay the charges yourself first. Then, you will be reimbursed if you can bring in all the paperwork according to the cost that it would if you did the same procedure in Japan.

Remember, though, you cannot go overseas for treatment and then expect to be reimbursed. This is only applicable if you are traveling abroad and something unexpected happens.

The line between "planned" and "unexpected" can be a bit gray, though.

Pension needs

I lived in Tokyo, Japan, until 1971, when I emigrated to the U.S. I am now a naturalized U.S. citizen. I was born in Japan in 1942 and since my dad was from Hawaii and my mom was from Japan, my siblings and I carried dual citizenships.

At one point after the war, my father renounced all of our Japanese citizenships. To cut a long story short, I also lost my U.S. citizenship at age 23 when my mother suddenly passed away a week before my birthday and I had to cancel my relocation to the mainland U.S. in order to retain my U.S. citizenship as an American born abroad.

This law no longer exists but it did in 1965 when I turned 23. I became stateless for 3 years, during which I went through the naturalization process in Japan to get Japanese citizenship.

I worked for several Japanese companies from 1961 through 1971, the longest having been with Mobil Sekiyu K.K. from 1966 to 1971. Would I or could I qualify for Japanese pension? If so, how do I go about getting more information?

You need to have paid into the pension system for a minimum of 25 years before you can receive any benefits. At the same time, there is great flexibility at each local office if you want to "rejoin" the system.

Usually you can rejoin the system if you pay the past three years of your pension fees. It is a very complicated procedure, but the Japanese bureaucracy is generally very understanding and kind on these issues.

The best thing to do would be to come back to Japan and go to the ward office you are or were registered in. Sit down with the "Nenkin Sondansha" and they will carefully go through the years that you have paid into the system. If there are no other problems, they should let you join with a back payment of the past three years.

Remember, though, that this is not something they have to do. They will usually as a courtesy let you rejoin with this three-year payment. The logic is that they want everyone to be in the system.

Many do not pay -- as can be seen by the recent resignations of many Diet Members who found out that they had not paid for months and some for years at a time.

At the same time, if you have paid something in and pass the age to receive, you should get a good sum per month.

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


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