Consideration for Public’s Anxiety over System Clearly Lacking

There have been a spate of troubles involving My Number identification cards. The government aims to expand administrative services using the cards, but it should keep in mind that security and public trust are prerequisites.

There has been no end to cases in which My Number cards linked to health insurance certificates were found to contain data on individuals different from the cardholders. This is believed to be caused by employees of health insurance associations and other entities mistakenly entering the information of a person with the same first name, last name or date of birth.

In a little over a year through November last year, the number of such erroneous entries reached about 7,300 cases, and in five of these cases, information such as on medications and medical expenses was viewed by others.

Medical information is the most personal information. If treatment or medication is administered based on another person’s information, it could lead to grave medical accidents. This is a serious situation that shakes the credibility of the My Number card system.

Certificate-issuing services at convenience stores are also experiencing frequent problems related to My Number cards, with copies of residence certificates and other documents of different persons being issued. They have revealed the defectiveness of the system.

It is quite natural that health insurance associations and the operators of the system are required to take measures to prevent a recurrence, but the central government, which has emphasized the safety of My Number cards and promoted their widespread use, bears an even heavier responsibility. There should have been opportunities in the past to prevent a situation like this, but the government has been slow to respond to the issue.

The viewing by another individual of personal information on My Number cards linked to health insurance certificates was first discovered in the autumn of 2021. An erroneous issuance of a certificate at a convenience store was confirmed in March this year. The government should have thoroughly inspected the system at these points and explained to the public the nature of the troubles and measures to deal with them.

As the government’s public relations efforts have been successful with a “carrot” approach of granting points to applicants for My Number cards, the number of applications has reached three-quarters of the population. It is certain that the benefits of having the cards, such as the issuance of certificates at convenience stores, are increasing.

On the other hand, the government plans to abolish the current health insurance certificates in 2024 in principle and integrate them into the My Number card system.

The government said that a “certificate of eligibility” will be issued to people who do not have My Number cards made, but what is the difference between this and continuing to hold the current health insurance certificates? It is hard to avoid the impression of heavy-handedness because this is a “stick” approach to spread the use of the cards in such a manner that, unless people obtain the cards, they will not be able to use the health insurance system.

Digitization of health insurance certificates has the advantage of confirming information on medications prescribed in the past, avoiding excessive dosages and duplication of examinations. However, not a few people, especially the elderly, are probably satisfied with the health insurance certificates they are accustomed to using.

Does deliberately abolishing the health insurance certificates even have a meaning? As long as the troubles that have occurred continue, it may also be necessary for the government to stop and think over the My Number card system once again.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 18, 2023)