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Regarding the Sept. 29 article “Brace for a possible spring shock“: I’d just like to say that private health insurance companies can give policyholders a hard time about honoring claims. I had private insurance during my first year in Japan and ended up having to go to a hospital in Iwate Prefecture for an ultrasound, a consultation with a great doctor and a prescription. The bill came to about ¥11,000, and I called my insurance company right away.

As the agent on the phone sounded reassuring and the bill was so low, I thought I might pay in cash and try to get reimbursed by the insurance company later. The hospital administrator told me that was unnecessary, that they would deal with my insurance company. They even found an English-speaking staff member to help me.

My insurance company insisted on having every single document translated into English by the hospital before it would even consider my claim, which seemed ridiculous since it claimed to be the expert in global health insurance. The hospital was very gracious about this and willingly translated and faxed the documents to the insurance company.

I moved to Mie Prefecture soon afterward, confident that the bill would be paid properly. But after a few weeks, I received an e-mail followed by calls from the kind English-speaking hospital staff that they had not received payment from the insurance company. I called the insurance company three or four times over a few months trying to find out what the problem was, and was treated rudely by the agents. One woman actually asked, “Why are they bothering you for something so small as $100 (Canadian)”?

“OK,” I replied, “I paid you $600 for this policy and you are basically refusing to honor my claim based on the fact that you don’t feel like it. So can I have my money back from you?”

After being put on hold for two minutes, I was told that a check would be mailed to the hospital immediately. I have never been so angry and embarrassed in my life. I apologized profusely to the hospital, as the total time it took for it to receive payment was about six months. My point in writing is that I’d rather deal with the Japan health insurance program.

sandra ikushima

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