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Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2004

LIFELINES

Health costs, counselling, and new jobs


Health Insurance

I have been in Japan over a year and I have enrolled in Japanese Health Insurance. My first three monthly premiums cost 1,500 yen, but I have since been re-assessed and now my monthly premiums have jumped to a whopping 57,000 yen a month.

My ward office told me that this amount is based on my income from last year, which never exceed 280,000 yen per month. This year my income is lower and I simply cannot afford to pay this.

Can I cancel National Health Insurance and instead enroll in a cheaper private plan? Is there any way to reduce my monthly premiums? What will happen if I cease to pay my monthly premiums?

First, your health insurance is calculated with a pretty complex system that begins with a percentage and then adds an element of a graduated scale so the more you make the more you pay as a percentage.

At the same time you should not be paying what amounts to nearly one quarter of your income. Please immediately go to your Ward office and sit down with them and go over the figures. You can't do this over the phone.

One of the good things about the Ward Office is that they are very user friendly and will take the time to help you. Bring proof of your income and ask them for the percentage it is calculated on. You should be able to significantly reduce your monthly payment.

You cannot cancel your National Health Insurance once you are in. The only way is when you leave the country.

An alternative is Pacific Star Insurance. They have been providing a replacement alternative for National Health Insurance for years. Contact Mine San at y.mine@f2.dion.ne.jp.

Overseas help

I was recently married and have moved to New York from Tokyo. Things are not going well with my husband and I really need someone to talk to.

There are many counseling centers available but I really need to speak to someone in Japanese and that can meet eventually with my husband and I.

There are many adjustments to moving overseas and at the same time these days there is much help for Japanese.

You can call The Nihongo 110 Ban which is a 24-hour emergency hotline in Japanese that has been operating since 1975. Their number is 1-800-527-2611.

In addition you can contact the Japanese American United Church at (212) 244-9444. They are located at 255 7th Ave in downtown New York. They can set up a counseling session with you and your husband.

Quickies

Looking for a job? Try the closest "Hello Work" -- it is a weird name but they have lots of job listings these days -- also known as "Shokuan."

Having trouble getting an English business card or printing? Call Mr. Okusa at Matsuo Printing at (03) 3432-1321.

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


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