Bills to Promote My Number System Pass Amid Complaints of Problems

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The plenary session of the House of Councillors during which bills to revise the My Number law to promote use of My Number cards passed by majority vote on Friday

Concerns of My Number card users remain as the government plans to promote the cards’ use without sufficient discussions on measures to prevent the recurrence of problems with them.

The Diet on Friday passed bills to revise the My Number law to promote the use of 12-digit My Number personal identification numbers as well as My Number identification cards. The Diet passage comes amid recent revelations of a string of problems involving the cards. Diet deliberation on the bills included harsh criticism from the ruling and opposition parties alike.

The first My Number card problem involved a certificate issuance service at convenience stores. Following a series of incidents in which certificates were erroneously issued to the wrong people, the Digital Agency in May asked the system provider to temporarily suspend the service and check the system. This came in the midst of Diet deliberations on the bills. Harsh criticism was voiced even from the ruling parties, with a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker in the House of Councillors saying, “A similar problem, if occurs again, would undermine the credibility of the My Number card.”

Since then, however, a series of problems have been uncovered. There was a mistake in which the My Number health insurance card, which is equipped with health insurance certificate functions, was linked to the wrong person’s personal information. There were also cases of incorrect registration of bank accounts to receive public money, and of reward points for those who obtain My Number cards being given to the wrong people.

Digital transformation minister Taro Kono said that the problems “were not attributable to the My Number system,” but the unsatisfied opposition parties protested strongly in reaction, saying the government should “stop and examine [the My Number card system] once and for all.”

The current health insurance card will be abolished in principle in autumn next year and replaced by the My Number health insurance card, but the government plans to issue a new “certificate of eligibility” so that those who do not obtain a My Number card can still receive medical treatment covered by health insurance.

However, some people, such as those residing in facilities for the elderly, cannot apply in person to obtain a certificate of eligibility. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry intends to allow family members and facilities to apply on behalf of these individuals, but the specifics have yet to be determined.

According to the ministry, as of May 28, the My Number health insurance card is usable at 74.4% of all 229,508 relevant facilities, including hospitals and pharmacies. Meanwhile, the Japanese Medical and Dental Practitioners for the Improvement of Medical Care (Hodanren) announced in May the results of a survey that found that 60% of the medical facilities where the My Number health insurance card is usable have experienced system troubles.

There is fear that confusion may increase if certificates of eligibility become yet another option at medical institutions where the My Number health insurance cards and conventional insurance certificates are already being used.