Jun 15, 2018
TOKYO - The Japanese government said Thursday foreign travelers with unpaid medical bills will be denied entry to the country in the future, with the number of foreign visitors set to surge in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
Authorities will screen foreign visitors based on information provided by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to the Justice Ministry and foreigners with a record of unpaid bills will in principle be denied entry.
According to a survey conducted by the health ministry, 80 percent of medical institutions in Japan treated foreign patients in fiscal 2015, of which 35 percent were unable to collect bills.
Details of the measures, including the amount of unpaid bills warranting denial of entry, will be set by the two ministries before the planned start of the system in fiscal 2019.
The government could set up a scheme modeled after that of other countries. In Britain, for example, travelers with unpaid medical bills of over 500 pounds ($670) are denied their entry into the country.
The measures also stipulate the establishment of a council in each municipality to share information among relevant authorities, medical institutions and tourism businesses to provide smooth and improved medical services for foreigners in case of emergency.
The measures also encompass promotions through diplomatic missions to encourage foreign visitors to enroll in travel insurance prior to traveling to Japan.
Certification of medical interpreters will begin on a trial basis in fiscal 2019 as well to avoid misunderstandings stemming from differences of language and culture.
The government is aiming for 40 million foreign visitors by 2020 and 60 million by 2030.
The number of foreign visitors to the country jumped to a record 28.69 million in 2017 from 8.61 million in 2010.
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