Japan campaigns for tourists to buy travel insurance as unpaid hospital bills pile up

Japanese government urges tourists to buy travel insurance as unpaid medical fees pile up; tourists at the Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto pictured

Government agencies in Japan are campaigning for foreign tourists to purchase travel insurance as unpaid medial bills left behind by visitors exert mounting pressure on hospital budgets, according to a Kyodo News report.

The country has been experiencing a tourism boom and visitor numbers are set to further surge next year, when the country hosts the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Japanese government is urging tourists to buy travel insurance as unpaid medical fees pile up; tourists at the Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto pictured

Citing a survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, Kyodo News said that approximately 20 per cent of hospitals which have treated foreign tourists have seen patients’ medical bills go unpaid.

In one instance, a hospital counted over 10 million yen (US$92,000) in unpaid bills.

A survey conducted by the tourism agency in fiscal 2018 showed 27 per cent of foreign travellers arrived uninsured, while 48 per cent said they bought insurance from travel agencies or insurance companies and 23 per cent enrolled in travel insurance plans through credit cards, Kyodo News reported. Five per cent fell ill or suffered injuries while in Japan.

This is despite Japan’s tourism agency taking extra steps to sell insurance to foreign tourists in recent years.

Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance had developed an insurance policy in cooperation with Japan’s tourism agency. It started selling the product in 2016, when tourist numbers increased sharply.

The policy was kept affordable by focussing on medical coverage over other the loss of personal items, for example.

Now, the Japan Tourism Agency is stepping up on its travel insurance campaigns. It has created flyers and placed them at tourist information centers in airports and hotels, alongside distributing cards listing the price of the most expensive hospital treatments.

Available in Chinese, Korean, and Thai, the flyer also informs tourists that they can quickly and easily buy insurance using their smartphones or other devices, even after arriving in Japan.

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