Dispel Public Anxiety over Linking Health Insurance Certificates to IDs

It is important for the government to review its plan to ensure that everyone can receive medical care without anxiety, as they do now.

“Dispelling public anxiety is the top priority,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said. In that regard, it is necessary for the government to come up with effective measures, including delaying the deadline for eliminating health insurance certificates.

At a press conference, Kishida announced new measures regarding the government’s plan to abolish health insurance certificates in autumn next year and transfer their functionality to My Number identification cards.

Under the plan, “certificates of eligibility” will be issued to those who have not linked their health insurance certificates to their My Number cards. Kishida said that local governments and health insurance associations will issue the new certificates even if people do not apply, just as they currently do with health insurance certificates. The validity of certificates of eligibility will be extended to a maximum of five years rather than one year as initially planned, he added.

The government had previously said that certificates of eligibility would have to be renewed every year. Many people complained that individuals who do not link their health insurance certificates to their My Number cards would face inconvenience.

It can be said that the latest review of the envisioned system will remove some of the anticipated disadvantages. The government must provide careful explanations about these changes to seek broader understanding from the public.

On the other hand, it has become unclear why health insurance certificates will have to be eliminated at all because, under the latest review, there is now almost no difference between the two types of certificates. As insurers will have to handle new procedures involving certificates of eligibility, their operations will likely become more complicated.

There have been a series of problems involving My Number cards, including cases in which they have been mistakenly linked with the medical records or disability certificate data of the wrong people.

While certificates of eligibility will be issued to those who have not linked their health insurance certificates to their My Number cards, it can be said that the steps implemented for those who have already completed the linkage are insufficient. If members of the public find nothing but disadvantages after obtaining My Number cards, the digitization of administrative procedures will not progress.

The government has been conducting a thorough review of the data on My Number cards. It is an urgent task for the government to restore trust in the identification cards by clarifying the causes of data leaks and system trouble, working together with local governments, which administer My Number services.

However, it will not be easy to implement sufficient measures in a short period of time.

The government should allocate a sufficient amount of time before implementing policies that will have a major impact on public lives and society. For example, overtime work for truck drivers will be capped starting from April next year, a reform that was decided when relevant laws were revised in 2018.

It is only natural that the government has been criticized for acting too hastily on its plan to abolish health insurance certificates in the autumn of 2024, when the decision was only finalized in June this year.

The Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating has fallen amid a series of problems involving My Number cards. If the rating remains low, it will be difficult for the government to smoothly implement important policies. Kishida must establish a framework that enables him to tackle the mountain of pending issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2023)