Visitors who ditch medical fees to be barred from reentering Japan

TOKYO — In response to a series of cases in which foreign tourists have left Japan without paying medical fees, the government plans to refuse reentry to foreign visitors who may do so again, according to sources.

The government intends to implement a full-fledged reentry ban for this purpose from fiscal 2020. It will announce the step on Thursday as a pillar of its comprehensive set of measures to improve the medical system for the increasing number of foreign tourists, the sources said.

According to a 2016 survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 35 percent of medical institutions that have treated foreign patients, including tourists, saw patients who did not pay their medical fees in the past year. Sixty-four percent of the surveyed medical institutions thought that treating foreigners posed risks such as medical fees going unpaid.

The government has been studying comprehensive measures to deal with unpaid medical fees since March this year. The envisaged reentry ban is based on a provision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law not to allow the entry of foreigners who are considered persona non grata.

The ministry will collect information from nationwide medical institutions on foreign tourists who have a record of not paying their medical fees, and provide the information to the Justice Ministry. The Justice Ministry will then reflect the data in its entry screenings.

The government will swiftly decide the criteria for the amount of unpaid medical fees that would be subject to the reentry ban, based on examples in foreign countries. Britain has set its amount at £500 (about ¥74,000) or more.

It also will consider an arrangement in which foreign visitors will be told about the possibility that their personal information regarding the use of medical institutions will be shared with the government if they cannot pay the medical fees, and their consent obtained in advance.

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