Illegals barred from health system

Insurance scheme out of bounds to all visa violators

Foreigners staying illegally in Japan were barred from joining the national health insurance scheme as of Tuesday, according to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials.

The ministry revised the implementation regulations for the National Health Insurance Law to state that foreigners who do not have permission to stay in Japan will be excluded without exception from the insurance plan.

They said the ministry will inform municipalities nationwide of the revision. The municipalities operate the insurance plan under the guidance of prefectural governments.

The Supreme Court had ruled in January that it is illegal for authorities to bar all foreigners without valid residency status from the national health insurance program.

The following month, the ministry consulted local governments, which expressed concern over anticipated difficulties in collecting insurance fees from such foreigners. The ministry then decided to exclude illegal foreigners from the insurance scheme, the officials said.

The ministry determined that it was impossible to introduce exceptions to allow some foreigners staying illegally in Japan to join. Those who are normally subject to deportation do not fit into the insurance system, and it is difficult to come up with and confirm the enrollment requirements for them, they said.

The ministry said that exclusion is the general practice in other countries.

Under the new implementation regulations, foreigners will be barred from the insurance scheme if they have no valid residency status, are permitted to stay in Japan for less than one year or have not registered with local authorities as foreign residents.

Foreigners who are permitted to remain in Japan for less than a year but are planning to extend their stay for more than one year will not be excluded.

On Jan. 15, the top court said it was illegal to deny coverage under the health plan to a South Korean-born Chinese man who has lived in Japan since 1971. It was the first time a ruling found it illegal to bar all foreigners without valid residency permits from the program.

The court said illegally staying foreigners who have registered with local governments as foreign residents, have applied for special permission to stay in Japan, and are likely to be able to continue living stably in Japan are eligible to join the insurance plan.

There are an estimated 250,000 foreigners staying illegally in Japan.