Don’t Neglect Efforts to Smoothly Remove Anxiety

Regarding the policy of abolishing health insurance certificates, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was right when he said, “The basic premise is to dispel anxiety.” However, if the government rushes a comprehensive review for this purpose and instead causes confusion, it will do more harm than good.

The government should calmly analyze the current situation and take corrective measures.

A special committee of the House of Representatives, which is out of session, held deliberations on My Number identification cards. Digital minister Taro Kono apologized for various problems involving the cards, saying, “We will work on a comprehensive review with a sense of speed.”

The government intends to conduct a thorough review of the data on My Number cards by autumn this year. Kishida moved up the timing of the interim report from late August as initially planned to early August.

The Cabinet’s approval ratings have been falling due to a series of problems involving the cards. Kishida probably wants to hasten the recovery of public trust.

My Number cards could be an effective system to promote administrative efficiency. Delays in the provision of public benefits during the coronavirus pandemic has been held up as an example of a problem that could have been avoided through the wider use of My Number cards linked to bank accounts for receiving public funds.

Under the My Number system, a 12-digit identification number is assigned to all residents. There is no room for confusion even in cases of people with the same first and last names. However, matching the number with health insurance certificates and other data requires analog manual work.

The cooperation of local governments, health insurance associations, medical professionals and others is essential for expanding the use of My Number cards, including those that have been integrated with health insurance certificates.

However, one cannot help but doubt whether the government is really aware of this.

Local governments are responsible for various kinds of administrative work involving My Number cards, including the registration of the cards and identity verification. The errors with My Number cards that are linked to health insurance certificates were caused by the fact that some health insurance associations did not thoroughly check the identity of users.

Some local governments are already protesting the central government’s push to have them conduct on-site inspections to smooth over failures in the system.

The central government had proposed a system in which people can select either a health insurance certificate or a My Number card linked to the certification. However, Kono abruptly announced that health insurance certificates would be abolished in autumn 2024, and a related law was enacted in the latest Diet session.

For those who do not have My Number cards, health insurance associations and other entities will issue a “certificate of eligibility.” This will only increase the burden on those working in the field.

Rather than insisting on abolishing health insurance certificates in autumn next year, it would be a better idea for the government to adopt a system where people can choose between health insurance certificates or My Number cards linked to the certification as originally planned, and allow people to directly experience the convenience of the cards.

Kono mentioned the renaming of My Number cards, and the government was forced to put out the resulting fire. Statements that could add to the confusion must be refrained from.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2023)