Sports injuries are never fun.
I was recently reminded of this when I clashed with another teacher at my city’s inter school teacher basketball tournament. I didn’t even know red cards existed in basketball — until I received one!
In my anger — and with the adrenaline still flowing — I hadn’t noticed the damage this surprising physical contact had caused. My little finger seemed to be hanging awkwardly. A couple of days later, it still wasn’t right. I couldn’t straighten it and there was a shooting pain whenever I tried to use it. A trip to the hospital seemed to be the only way to go.
It turned out I had sustained a broken finger with a fracture right on the joint of two of the bones. Surgery was going to be needed — and this is where the real nightmare began.
Hopefully today, you can learn from my experience and avoid some of the costs I incurred as a result of this injury with a little planning and knowledge of Japanese national health insurance.
Accidents and insurance
The insurance coverage provided for competitors in this event — which I was signed up for automatically via my workplace — only covered up to ¥3,000 for a hospital visit. Considering that many hospitals charge around ¥5,000 just for a consultation, this wasn’t going to get me very far at all.
A note on this point for those just starting work in Japan: employers should have employee accident insurance — always. As a teacher, this is something you should ask about as soon as you begin employment. My board of education (BOE) has this, however it didn’t apply in my case.
If you choose to participate in school events such as sports tournaments or parties outside of your working hours, any injuries sustained at these events will not be covered by employee accident insurance. In the case of the school tournament I was in, the burden of insurance fell upon the local teachers union who sponsored the event. The union has little available funds and that was why the coverage was minimal.
Of course, I’m on the Japanese national health insurance plan. However, unlike my native Scotland where universal health care ensures that all costs are covered — Japan’s system only covers 70 percent. This is still a big help, of course, but even with this assistance my treatment to date has still left me tens of thousands of yen out of pocket. Further surgery may be required later, with the possibility that there may be long-term damage.
Had I known then what I know now about Japan’s health insurance system, some of this pain — in the financial sense at least — could have been avoided.
As you’re probably aware — and it bears repeating — all foreign residents in Japan (those staying here for more than three months) are required by law to enroll in one of the two national healthcare programs: kokumin kenko hoken (Japan’s National Health Insurance) or kenko hoken (Employee Health Insurance offered through your workplace).
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