Devise ways to increase usage of My Number identification cards

A new system that allows people to use My Number identification cards as health insurance cards has fully started. However, only a few medical institutions have made preparations to use the system. Under such circumstances, an increase in the use of the cards cannot be expected.

My Number cards contain electronic identification data. The government has positioned the cards as the key to digitizing administrative procedures and aims for most residents to have one by the end of fiscal 2022.

Cardholders who have completed a designated registration can use My Number cards as health insurance cards. Integrating the functions is the backbone of efforts to spread the use of My Number cards. It is understandable that the government is trying to increase opportunities for people to use the cards in their daily lives and encourage people to obtain them.

Health insurance cards can still be used. However, if My Number cards are used, there is no need to make a new health insurance card when finding jobs or getting married. There are also advantages such as checking medical expenses online and simplifying the procedures for filing tax returns.

If patients give their approval, doctors and pharmacists will apparently be able to check information on drugs prescribed to them in the past and use the information for their medical treatment. Both patients and medical institutions can be expected to save unnecessary work.

The problem is that preparations in the field have been delayed.

Less than 10% of medical institutions accept My Number cards as health insurance cards. Even though the government is providing them with the card readers necessary for the system free of charge, just under 60% of medical institutions have reportedly applied for the devices, and the distribution of the devices has also been delayed.

Some institutions that are reluctant to introduce the system say they do not expect many people to make use of it. Indeed, the My Number card issuance rate has been stagnating at about 40% of the population. Only about 10% of My Number cardholders have registered to use them as health insurance cards.

Patients cannot use the cards if medical institutions have not yet introduced the system, and medical institutions will postpone the introduction of the system if they think there will be few users. In order to break the negative cycle in which both patients and medical institutions are taking a wait-and-see approach, the government must urge medical institutions to take action and promote the use of My Number cards as soon as possible.

The government also intends to integrate the function of a driver’s license into My Number cards, and it is considering developing an identification function on smartphones so that people do not have to carry their cards with them.

As My Number cards are not mandatory, the situation will not improve unless the public understands the purpose of increasing the use of the system.

In order for the central and local governments to maintain their administrative functions in the face of a declining population, it is essential to reduce the amount of work they do by digitizing complicated paper-based procedures through the use of My Number cards.

The confusion surrounding the application for the fixed-sum cash handouts that were part of the government’s COVID-19 pandemic relief measures should have demonstrated the importance of digitizing documents in administrative procedures. The government needs to thoroughly explain the significance of My Number cards, including measures to protect personal information.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 21, 2021.