It Is Not Too Late to Reconsider Plan to Scrap Current Certification System

It is unreasonable to scrap the health insurance certification that people are familiar with and integrate the function into My Number identification cards, which have been ridden with problems. It makes sense to suspend the policy temporarily in order to dispel public concerns about the plan.

A package of bills to revise related laws has been enacted to scrap the health insurance certification in the autumn of 2024, with the verification function integrated into My Number cards. From autumn next year, patients will be required to present their My Number cards at medical institutions to receive treatment.

The government has been promoting the spread of My Number cards as part of efforts to digitize administrative procedures. The integration of the health insurance certification is part of this effort.

However, reports of problems surrounding My Number cards are never-ending. For example, cardholders have received copies of other people’s residence certificates at convenience stores, and bank accounts for receiving public benefits have been registered as those of other people.

My Number card problems linked to health insurance certificates are especially serious. There have been 7,300 cases in which information of individuals different from the cardholders was linked to My Number cards.

While administrative documents may be able to be modified after problems are found, there are concerns that mistakes regarding medical matters could seriously affect the health and lives of citizens. The government should not take the situation lightly.

In June last year, the government initially announced a system under which people could choose between the current health insurance certification or My Number cards linked to the health insurance certification. The idea is to allow patients to receive treatment with their My Number cards alone, if desired. However, in October, digital minister Taro Kono abruptly announced that the health insurance certification would be scrapped next autumn.

The government said a “certificate of eligibility” would be issued by health insurance associations and other entities to people who do not have My Number cards. However, the certificate of eligibility requires an application in person and the certificate needs to be renewed annually.

The government intends to allow proxy applications on the grounds of illness or disability, but specific procedures are still under consideration.

The health insurance certification that is currently used without any inconvenience is being scrapped and people are effectively being forced to obtain My Number cards. Is this the “people-friendly digitization” that the government has been touting?

Based on the repeated My Number card issues linked to the health insurance certification, medical-related and other organizations are opposed to scrapping the certification. It is not surprising that the medical field is voicing such concern.

It is too early to assume that the system cannot be revised just because laws have been enacted.

In 1980, a law was enacted to introduce a “green card system,” a type of taxpayer identification number, but criticism erupted from political and business circles, and five years later the government scrapped the law and the planned system.

It is not too late to review the health insurance-linked My Number system from now on. Efforts to identify the cause of the problems and prevent recurrences should be prioritized. One idea could be to make do with the system that provides options as originally planned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 7, 2023)