According to a Japanese Government survey conducted by the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, 27 per cent of all travellers arriving in Japan have taken out no insurance policy at all, and once ill in Japan, tourists must foot the bill for all medical expenses. The survey also reveals that around 20 per cent of hospitals which have treated foreign tourists have received no payment from patients following medical care and procedures, including one hospital where the total amount exceeded 10 million yen (US$92,000).
As a response to this crisis, local authorities have been trying several methods to get visitors to purchase travel insurance, from handing out flyers in tourist information centres and hotspots – which list the price of the most expensive hospital treatments ("700,000 yen for heatstroke" and "three million yen for a broken bone") – to developing a low-cost insurance policy in co-operation with the tourism agency. Travellers are encouraged to purchase travel insurance on their smartphones and other devices even after they step off the plane in Japan.
And the method is slowly beginning to see success – Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc., which developed the low-cost insurance policy, managed to keep its price relatively low by cutting the coverage offered for loss or damage of personal items and focusing instead on delivering medical coverage.
"We've heard concerns from medical institutions about possibly vast amounts of unpaid medical bills," said an official of the island prefecture. "We will continue our efforts to increase the number of people who buy insurance policies after they arrive in Okinawa."