Health insurance law revised to limit coverage to Japan residents

Parliament enacted a legislative revision Wednesday to make the national health insurance program largely applicable only to workers and their dependents residing in Japan.
The revised health insurance law is aimed at blocking the use of the system by foreigners who have never lived in Japan, including relatives of soon to arrive laborers, as the country accepts more foreign workers to tackle labor shortages in the rapidly aging country.
The revised law also obliges spouses of public pension recipients to reside in Japan.
The amendment covers eight sets of laws related to the social security system, mainly in the field of medical services.
Japan's previous employee health insurance system covered workers' dependents living abroad, but authorities had faced difficulties in checking whether they are actually kin or financially dependent on the workers.
Japanese residents who are temporarily living overseas for study or work will continue to be eligible for health insurance coverage regardless of nationality. The health ministry will introduce ordinances to stipulate who can access such exceptions.
The revised law also enables people to present national ID cards, known as "My Number" cards, in place of standard health insurance certificates of the state-run program.
The government aims to link state medical and nursing care databases and provide anonymized information to research organizations and drug makers, among others, for a fee.
In the face of an aging population and falling birthrate, Japan introduced a new visa system last month to attract foreign workers into its labor-hungry sectors, including construction, farming and nursing care.
It marked a major policy shift for the country, which had in the past effectively granted working visas only to doctors, lawyers and other highly-skilled people with professional experience.

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