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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Health cover; donating clothes

Reader TJ writes:

"I have been in Japan for a while and am stuck in the Japanese National Health Insurance plan. It is extremely expensive and as I cannot use it outside Japan I have to purchase separate travel insurance for while I am overseas. Is there anything I can do about this?"

First, the Japanese National Health Insurance payments are based on income, so if your income is high the percentage you pay per month can be high — it's as simple as that.

At the same time, there are a number of other important factors to consider.

First, there is no "pre-existing conditions" requirement for the National Health Insurance plan. This is extremely important, as most private insurance policies will not cover you for illnesses or conditions you have prior to signing up.

Second, depending on the type of National Health Insurance policy you have — private or company — you will pay only 20 percent to 30 percent of the total medical costs, and the insurance will pay the rest directly to the medical facility involved. This contrasts to many private policies, where you have to pay the whole fee first and are later reimbursed.

Finally — and this is a little-known part of the National Health Insurance plan — it can be used when you are traveling overseas. You simply keep the receipts for any medical costs incurred while abroad, and you will be reimbursed based on the Japanese system on your return.

Having been born and raised under the national insurance plan, I've found it to be a pretty good system. The key is having a good doctor you can trust in and build a good relationship with.

Do readers agree? Please let us know your experiences with the National Health Insurance plan.

Good places to go for more information are: www.nationalhealthinsurance.jp; the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare official site at www.mhlw.go.jp/english; and the Social Insurance Agency at www.sig.go.jp/e/index.html.

S from Kawasaki writes: "I have got old (but undamaged) clothes that I would like to give to a charity or a second-hand shop. Do some charities in Japan have a collection-box system or a special place where you can go and donate your clothes anytime?"

The best place we know of is The Salvation Army. In Tokyo, where the Japan headquarters is located, they manage two hospitals with hospice programs and an impressive array of social welfare services. One such service popular with non-Japanese is the weekly Saturday Bazaar at its Men's Social Welfare Center in Nakano, where they offer a large selection of good recycled clothing, household items and furniture. The address is 2-21-2 Wada, Suginami Ward (phone (03) 3384-3769). The nearest station is Nakano Fujimicho on the Marunouchi Line. You can also find them online at familystore.salvationarmy.or.jp/english/index.html or www.salvationarmy.or.jp.

Tokyo Masonic Lodge No. 2 F. & A. M. also welcomes donations of clean, used men's clothing and blankets for the homeless and day laborers of the Sanya district. For more information, contact Richard A. Smith by e-mail at greywolf128@hotmail.com, or call (090) 9972-2978.

Do any of our readers know of other places that still take clothes?

Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or on (03) 000-911. Send questions, queries, problems and posers to community@japantimes.co.jp

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