My Number Card for Health Insurance: Can Complete Transition Really Be Implemented by Next Autumn?

It is difficult to say that the public’s concerns about the My Number personal identification system, which has been plagued by a series of troubles, have been dispelled. The question remains as to whether there is a need to hasten the abolition of health insurance cards.

The government has released the results of a comprehensive inspection of the linking of personal information to the My Number system. Since the summer, the central government has been asking local governments and other organizations to conduct inspections in response to the problem of insurance cards and bank account information of the wrong people being registered.

As a result of the comprehensive inspection, errors were found in 12 administrative procedures, including those related to health insurance and disability certificates. Including cases that had been already discovered, the number of errors in the linking of personal information totaled 15,907 cases.

Most of the mistakes were human errors. In many cases, employees of health insurance organizations and local governments mistakenly registered different persons’ My Numbers when linking information such as health insurance enrollment to the My Number cards.

Completely eliminating mistakes in a system that involves a large number of people is difficult. Nevertheless, it is problematic that there was little awareness of the importance of the personal information being handled.

The government also bears great blame for unilaterally rushing to promote the use of the My Number cards without taking into consideration the burden on frontline workers. A project to give points to those who acquire the card was carried out with a deadline, resulting in an enormous amount of work for local governments and other organizations.

The government also failed to set forth rules about what to do in case any trouble occurs. It must be said that the assurance of safety, which must be the most important aspect in the My Number system, was neglected.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said, “The My Number card with a health insurance card function has many advantages, such as the provision of better medical service and prevention of identity theft,” expressing his intention to abolish the current health insurance cards in principle next autumn as planned.

Currently, however, the percentage of the use of My Number cards with the health insurance card function, also known as the My Number insurance card, at medical institutions is less than 5%.

The reason why the use of My Number insurance cards is not spreading is likely the public’s distrust of the card. There have been many problems, such as that the wrong percentage of an out-of-pocket payment on a medical fee was displayed when the card was presented at the counter of a medical institution.

The government will allow the current health insurance card to be used for up to one year from next autumn. It is said that a certificate of eligibility will be issued to every individual who does not have a My Number insurance card.

In addition, starting this month, a My Number card from which the PIN function is removed and a facial recognition function is added to confirm one’s identity will be issued. This is being done out of consideration for those who cannot remember their PIN or for elderly care facilities that are concerned about card management.

Will the introduction of various means of identification cause confusion in frontline medical services? It is problematic if the convenience of both medical institutions and patients is neglected because of an obsession with digitization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2023)