Kyodo News
Back to Main
Gov't to survey foreign tourists' payments for medical expenses

The health ministry will launch a survey to look into medical
expenses paid by foreign tourists to deal with an apparent increase
in unpaid cases, a source close to the matter said recently.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will study the total
amount of unpaid bills and number of cases at 7,000 hospitals
nationwide and consider measures to address the issue after compiling
a report based on the survey's results by March, the source said.

About 30 percent of hospitals in Osaka that provided medical
care and treatment to foreign tourists said in a government survey
last year that they had not received payments in some cases.

According to the tourism agency, roughly 30 percent of
foreigners visit Japan without travel insurance covering medical
costs.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan nearly tripled to a
record 24.04 million in 2016 from 8.61 million in 2010 and is
expected to continue to rise.

The government is aiming for 40 million tourists by 2020, when
Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics Games, and 60 million by
2030.

Nonlife insurance companies are cooperating with the tourism
agency, offering new insurance covering medical costs that foreign
tourists can buy after arriving in Japan.

Toshiki Mano, a professor at Tama University, said hospital
operators need special services such as interpreter assistance to
prevent medical services from being left unpaid by foreign tourists.

The government could set up a scheme with other countries to
help hospitals collect payments for emergency treatment more easily,
he added.

The average amount of unpaid medical bills, including those of
Japanese patients, stood at 50.18 million yen ($446,000) per hospital
at the end of fiscal 2014, up 15.7 percent from the year before,
according to a survey by the ministry. (July 16)