Private Health Insurance

Despite the generous benefits and coverage provided by the public health insurance system, private health insurance is a growing segment of the private insurance industry in Japan with much of private health insurance delivered alongside life insurance. Previously, private health insurance was limited in use to coverage of orthodontics and other high cost cosmetic procedures; yet, as the life insurance industry has grown larger, private health insurance as a supplementary service product has also grown.1

Plans on the market today include insurance to cover chronic diseases and hospitalization. These plans provide the insured with a lump sum upon diagnosis of, for example, cancer or upon long-term hospitalization. Private health insurance policies can be divided into three categories: medical insurance purchased independent of life insurance, medical riders upon a new or existing life insurance policy, and complementary medical care insurance that covers copays for services provided within the public health insurance system. The Life Insurance Association of Japan, to which all life insurance firms operating in Japan belong, estimated that 29.98 million stand-alone medical insurance policies, 94.52 million medical riders (for surgery and hospitalization), and 1.72 million complementary medical insurance policies were active in 2013 via a life insurance company. Cancer insurance has gained traction in Japan with 21.16 million cancer insurance policies in effect in 2013.2

Private health insurance in Japan continues to be a niche sector and is not projected to expand widely in the near future.3 Reasons for this include the public health insurance system’s generous out-of-pocket pay cap, extensive coverage of health services, and provision of open access to medical providers.4 On the other hand, the changing disease structure and increased health policy focus on cancer, the leading cause of death in Japan, may have some effect on the demand for these services.5


1 Thomson, S., Osborn, R., Squires, D., & Jun, M. (2013). INTERNATIONAL PROFILES of Health Care Systems, 2013.Commonwealth Fund Pub. No. 1717, p. 75–83.

2  Life Insurance Association of Japan (2014). Life Insurance Fact Book 2014. Retrieved from (accessed, April 16, 2015)

3 Tajika, E. and Kikuchi, J. (2012). The Roles of the Government and Private Insurances in Healthcare Systems: the theoretical framework and the overseas case studies. Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Finance, Japan, Public Policy Review. Vol 111, No.1

4 Tajika, E. and Kikuchi, J. (2012). The Challenges of Japan’s Public Healthcare System and the Potential of Private Medical Insurance. Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Finance, Japan, Public Policy Review. Vol 111, No.2

5 Japanese Association of Cancer Registries. Cancer Registry in Japan. Retrieved from (accessed on 16-04-2015)