Illnesses and injuries can occur anywhere at any time. When you’re in a foreign country and out of your comfort zone, unexpected medical issues can be especially challenging (and may not be covered by your home country insurance plan).
Japan has world-class medical care, but for visitors to its shores, this care can come at a price. Here’s what you need to know about travel health insurance and how it can benefit you while traveling in Japan.
- What Is Travel Health Insurance?
- Do I Need Travel Health Insurance for Japan?
- What to Look for in a Travel Health Insurance Plan for Japan
- How to Buy Travel Health Insurance for Travel in Japan
- Travel Health Insurance for Travelers in Japan
Before we talk about how travel health insurance can be beneficial for a trip to Japan, it’s first important to understand what travel health insurance is.
Travel health insurance, or travel medical insurance, is a type of international insurance designed to cover unexpected emergency health care costs while traveling abroad. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of State recommend buying supplemental travel health insurance for a trip outside of your home country.
Injury or illness abroad can result in costly medical expenses, and a travel health insurance plan can help reduce your financial burden by covering certain expenses.
“But Doesn’t My Domestic Health Insurance Cover Me Abroad?”
Not always. In fact, many domestic health plans offer little or no overseas coverage. Even if your domestic health insurance does cover you across borders, it may exclude many benefits that travel medical insurance typically offers. Such benefits may include Emergency Medical Evacuation, Repatriation of Remains, and Political Evacuation.
Do I Need Travel Health Insurance for Japan?
It’s true that Japan has a world-renowned health care system – it ranks 10th in the world by the U.S. News. But as a visitor to Japan, you must pay for medical care in full at the time of treatment, or otherwise present irrefutable proof of your ability to pay.
And unless you have a long-term visa for Japan, you won’t qualify for Japanese National Health Insurance.
"How Much Do Medical Expenses Cost in Japan?"
Japan Health Info recommends that travelers without Japanese health insurance take ¥20,000 - ¥50,000 Japanese yen (roughly $181 - $453 USD) to a medical consultation at a hospital in Japan. That cost can be even higher for medical procedures. For example, the University of Tokyo Hospital lists the cost of medical procedures at ¥500,000 yen, or over $4,500 USD.
This is where travel medical insurance comes in. It can help mitigate your out-of-pocket costs for covered injuries or illnesses you incur as you travel Japan.
Consider These Emergency Scenarios:
1. You’re homesick and seek western-style food as a comfort, but you come down with a serious bout of food poisoning that requires medical attention.
With a travel medical insurance policy like Atlas Travel insurance, you’ll be covered for the cost of a local ambulance if your hospital visit results in you being admitted as a patient. You’ll also be covered for hospital room and board and eligible medical treatment resulting from covered injuries or illnesses.
Plus, Atlas Travel will provide you with access to provider referrals and translation services in multiple languages 365 days a year.
2. You’re exploring a tranquil Japanese onsen (hot spring) in the countryside when you slip, fall, and become seriously injured.
You’re taken to the local emergency medical facility, but the facility cannot provide you with the life-saving medical treatment you need.
You’re covered under your travel medical insurance policy’s Emergency Medical Evacuation benefit, which covers the cost of transporting you to a nearby hospital that’s properly equipped to treat you. Emergency medical evacuations like these can cost upwards of $100,000 according to the CDC.
What to Look for in a Travel Health Insurance Plan for Japan
It’s important to find the right type of travel health insurance policy for your trip to Japan. Here’s how:
Step 1: Assess Your Needs to Determine Which Type of Travel Health Plan Is Right for You
First, ask yourself questions like:
- How long will I be in Japan?
- Do I have plans to travel to Japan or an additional country(ies) more than once in the next year?
- Am I traveling with any companions?
- Do I wish to engage in amateur/recreational sports?
Then use your answers to determine which type of travel health plan you need for your trip to Japan.
There are three common policy types:
- Single-trip plan – provides coverage for a single trip abroad
- Multi-trip plan – provides coverage for multiple trips abroad throughout a 364-day period
- Group plan – provides coverage for a group of people (typically five or more) at a discounted rate
The type of plan you select is entirely up to your needs. A single-trip plan will suffice if you’re only traveling to Japan once in the next year. The group option may be best if you’re planning a trip to Japan with your friend group or large family. Choose a multi-trip policy if you’re planning to travel to Japan frequently within the next year for business or other reasons.
Planning to Stay in Japan for Over a Year?
Then you may need to consider a travel major medical plan, also known as expatriate insurance. This type of insurance is similar to your standard, home country health insurance.
It typically offers some coverage for prescription drugs and preventive care in addition to coverage for emergency healthcare. It may also give you the option to extend your benefits for a period following your return home.
In the meantime, you can still purchase travel medical insurance for a period of up to 364 days. Travel medical insurance typically offers benefits like Emergency Medical Evacuation in addition to coverage for unexpected injury or illness. These plans can be budget-friendly, and they do not require underwriting or application approval.
Note that travel medical insurance does not typically provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, wellness exams, and regular prescriptions.
Step 2: Identify Which Travel Health Insurance Benefits Are Most Important to You
Once you select the plan type that best suits your needs, you’ll determine which benefits you want.
Basic Emergency Medical Benefits
As a baseline, you’ll want to have basic emergency medical coverage. This coverage usually includes:
- Eligible Medical Expenses – Look for a plan that provides coverage for eligible costs resulting from accidental injury or unexpected illness
- Emergency Medical Evacuation – Coverage for emergency air and ground transportation from a hospital or facility that is ill-equipped to treat you to the nearest hospital that can provide the life or limb saving medically necessary care
- Hospital Room and Board – Coverage for semi-private hospital room and nursing services
- Local Ambulance – Coverage for ambulance transport in connection with an injury or illness resulting in inpatient hospitalization
- Intensive Care Unit – Coverage for ICU expenses related to a covered injury or illness
Recreational Sport and Activity Coverage
Most travel medical insurance policies cover some amateur and recreational sports and activities as well.
For example, the Atlas Travel policy from WorldTrips covers sports and activities such as:
- Indoor and outdoor rock climbing
- Mountain biking
- Mountaineering (at elevations under 4,500 meters)
- Scuba diving (must be PADI/NAUI certified or accompanied by a certified instructor at depths fewer than 10 meters)
- Snow skiing and snowboarding (recreational downhill and/or cross country)
- Zip lining
Be sure to read through your policy documents carefully to ensure your level of sports activity is covered – and to ensure you are aware of any exclusions or limitations.
Note that extreme sports are usually excluded from travel health insurance policies. Some policies may give you the option to attach an extreme sports add-on – often called a “rider” – to your policy to cover certain activities that are not covered in the base policy, such as heli-skiing.
Next, you’ll want to make sure the plan you choose offers supplemental benefits that are relevant for your trip.
Natural Disaster Coverage
Coverage for natural disasters could be important for a trip to Japan. The Islands of Japan are located where several tectonic plates meet, making the country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
A Natural Disaster – Replacement Accommodations benefit may provide coverage for replacement accommodations if you are displaced from your paid lodging as a result of a forecasted natural disaster or natural disaster strike. Benefits like this typically apply if you have less than 72 hours of advance notice.
The Atlas Travel policy also provides the option to add additional Natural Disaster Evacuation coverage via the Optional Crisis Response Rider with Natural Disaster Evacuation. This coverage can bring your total benefit for Crisis Response to $100,000, including adding a $10,000 maximum for:
- Transportation to the nearest safe location
- One-way airfare to return you to your home country following a natural disaster evacuation
- Up to three days for accommodations if you are delayed at the safe location and unable to depart to your home country
Emergency Family Transportation Coverage
Emergency family transportation coverages may also come in handy if you are traveling long and far to reach the Land of the Rising Sun. Consider a policy with benefits like Bedside Visit, Emergency Reunion, Return of Minor Children, and Pet Return.
Learn how these emergency transportation benefits work in action – both before and after you face an emergency situation abroad.
Step 3: Choose Your Maximum Coverage Limit
Your plan may allow you to select your maximum coverage limit. This is the maximum amount of money your travel medical insurance policy will pay towards your eligible expenses. In some cases, it may apply “per injury or illness” or “per certificate period” (the amount of time your policy is effective).
Many policies offer maximum limits between $50,000 and $1,000,000 to eligible travelers, though some plans offer up to $2,000,000 in coverage. Depending on age and length of travel, the price difference between a lower coverage maximum and a higher coverage maximum may be minimal, so get a few different quotes before you purchase your plan.
NOTE: Travel medical insurance policies typically offer fewer coverage options to those age 65 and up, and individuals age 80 and up may be limited to a predetermined maximum coverage limit.
Step 4: Make Sure You’re Satisfied with Your Per-Benefit Coverage Limits
Remember those medical benefits you selected? Just like with your overall coverage limit, you want to review the per-benefit coverage.
For example, the CDC notes that an emergency medical evacuation can exceed $100,000. So you want to look for a policy that offers at least $100,000 in Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage.
Or consider a benefit like Trip Interruption that can cover the cost of transporting you back to your home country if you must end your trip early due to a covered reason. Look for a Trip Interruption benefit with a maximum limit high enough to cover your potential transportation costs from Japan back home.
You can find your benefit limits in the Schedule of Benefits and Limits for the plan. This is typically a chart located in the plan’s policy documents.
You’ll find that some benefits offer a lifetime maximum, a maximum amount per day, or a maximum amount per certificate period. Others might list specific conditions of coverage (i.e. “usual, reasonable, and customary charges”) or be subject to the overall maximum limit for the policy.
Step 5: Consider Your Deductible
Deductibles are an important factor in the overall cost of your travel medical insurance policy. A deductible is the predetermined dollar amount of eligible expenses you must pay before your travel medical plan begins to cover its share of your remaining eligible expenses.
Many providers offer deductibles that range from $0 USD to a few thousand dollars. A higher deductible usually means a lower premium (the amount you pay to purchase a travel medical insurance policy). A lower deductible usually results in a higher premium.
Choosing a deductible level is up to your personal preference. For example, if you’re planning a ski trip to Japan, you may want to choose a low deductible and pay a higher premium since you may have a higher chance of becoming injured. If you simply want coverage for a worst-case scenario, you may consider a higher deductible with a lower premium to cover worst-case scenarios.
Regardless of what deductible you choose, keep in mind that cash is the preferred payment method in Japan. Hospitals that accept credit cards are limited, so you may need to prepare cash.
How to Buy Travel Health Insurance for Travel in Japan
To compare travel medical plans and get quotes online, know what benefits and coverage maximums you’re seeking.
It’s also important to read the policy documents for the plan you’re considering – especially the benefits and exclusions – before you buy. This is especially important for travelers to Japan who plan on engaging in snow sports or other recreational activities.
Don’t forget to compare providers, as well. A quality travel medical insurance provider will have a good company reputation, an easy-to-use website, and multilingual travel assistance services for policyholders.
Review the fine details once you’ve selected a plan that fits your needs and expectations.
Also take the following steps before you buy:
- Make sure trip dates, length of coverage, and destination are listed correctly.
- Ensure the appropriate number of travelers is listed and the cost is accurate.
- Review the deductibles you’ve selected.
- Double-check your coverage limits are adequate.
- Verify all travelers’ personal details are correct.
"Can I Buy Travel Health Insurance After I Arrive in Japan?"
Yes. But you should purchase it beforehand if possible.
Travel medical insurance only covers eligible injuries and illnesses that take place after your coverage has gone into effect. If you are injured while traveling in Japan and you try to purchase a travel medical insurance policy to cover expenses you’ve already incurred, you won’t be covered or receive financial compensation.
But if you don’t and you decide to take an impromptu ski trip to the Japanese Alps – you can purchase a travel medical insurance policy like Atlas Travel after you’ve arrived in Japan. (And you’ll receive your documentation by email immediately.) Just be sure to purchase before you plan to start skiing.
Travel Health Insurance for Travelers in Japan
Now that you know what benefits, coverage limits, and deductible options to look for – and how to compare policies and providers – you may be thinking, “Where do I even start?”
Let us help.
Atlas Travel is travel medical insurance designed for international travelers, including those heading abroad to Japan.
Atlas Travel is also a great option for snow sport-enthusiasts, as it offers coverage for recreational downhill and/or cross-country snow skiing and snowboarding.
"Why Should I Consider Atlas Travel Insurance for My Trip to Japan?"
Here are a few additional reasons to choose Atlas Travel for your trip to Japan:
- Budget-Friendly Options – Atlas Travel offers policies that start at less than a dollar a day. In an expensive location like Japan, you may welcome a budget-friendly travel medical policy so you can splurge on experiences.
- Flexibility – You can tailor your plan by choosing a deductible you’re comfortable with, the length of coverage you need, and the overall coverage maximum you want.
- Ease of Use – You can purchase coverage while traveling, extend your coverage after your purchase, or cancel your policy if your travel plans change.
- Immediate Fulfillment – Are you taking a spontaneous trip to Japan tomorrow? Buy Atlas Travel online and receive your policy documents immediately.
- Multilingual Travel Assistance Services – Japanese can be a difficult language for foreign visitors. Once you purchase an Atlas policy, you’ll gain access to translations, provider and pharmacy referrals, assistance with lost travel documents and lost luggage, and more.
What About Trip Cancellation Insurance?
For your trip to Japan, you may want to consider purchasing a trip cancellation insurance plan instead of a travel medical insurance plan. Trip cancellation insurance provides reimbursement if you must cancel your trip to Japan for a covered reason.
For example, you might have already planned a trip to Japan when suddenly a family member passes away or you become ill and your doctor advises you not to travel. With a trip cancellation plan, you would be refunded for eligible prepaid and nonrefundable travel expenses for your trip, such as hotel, airfare, and tour expenses.
While Atlas Travel is travel medical insurance and therefore does not include a Trip Cancellation benefit, the Atlas Journey travel insurance plans from WorldTrips do.
They also provide coverage for other travel-related expenses like:
- Travel Delay
- Missed Connection
- Baggage Damage or Loss
- Baggage Delay
Atlas Journey provides some emergency medical benefits like Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expense and Medical Evacuation & Repatriation of Remains as well.
It’s important to note that Atlas Journey plans are only available to U.S. citizens and residents traveling domestically and abroad, while Atlas Travel insurance is available to citizens and residents of most countries—but you must be traveling abroad. Also, Atlas Journey plans generally have higher premiums because they include Trip Cancellation coverage.
Do you want to know more about the difference between travel medical insurance and trip cancellation insurance? Read “Travel Insurance vs Travel Medical Insurance: Is There a Difference?"
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WorldTrips is a service company and a member of the Tokio Marine HCC group of companies. WorldTrips’ Atlas Travel Series and StudentSecure international travel medical insurance products are underwritten by Lloyd's. WorldTrips has authority to enter into contracts of insurance on behalf of the Lloyd's underwriting members of Lloyd's Syndicate 4141, which is managed by HCC Underwriting Agency, Ltd.
WorldTrips' Atlas Journey, Atlas Cruiser, and Atlas On-The-Go trip protection insurance products are underwritten by Tokio Marine HCC's U.S. Specialty Insurance Company (USSIC). USSIC is a Texas-domiciled insurance company operating on an admitted basis throughout the United States. Coverage is available to U.S. residents of the U.S. states and District of Columbia only. This plan provides insurance coverage that only applies during the covered trip. You may have coverage from other sources that provides you with similar benefits but may be subject to different restrictions depending upon your other coverages. You may wish to compare the terms of this policy with your existing life, health, home, and automobile insurance policies. Coverage may not be available in all states.
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