Kishida Under Fire for My Number ID Card Problems

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Digital minister Taro Kono, right, answers a question at the House of Councillors Audit Committee on Monday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came under fire from opposition parties for problems linked to My Number identification cards in Diet deliberations on Monday.

Kishida apologized for a series of problems and asked for understanding of the government’s plan to scrap the current health insurance cards in autumn 2024. However, the criticism has been unrelenting. Some observers say that the current situation might affect Kishida’s strategy for the dissolution of the House of Representatives.

Apology for confusion

“I take the situation seriously. I am sorry for causing trouble for citizens,” Kishida said at a meeting of the Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration in the lower house Monday morning in response to criticism from Ryuichi Yoneyama of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who said the My Number health insurance card, which is equipped with health insurance certificate functions, has major problems.

At a meeting of the Audit Committee of the House of Councillors on the afternoon of the same day, another CDP member, Takumi Onuma, fiercely criticized the issuance of My Number health insurance cards. Kishida asked for understanding of the government’s efforts to integrate the My Number and health insurance cards in the autumn of next year, saying, “To provide quality healthcare in a speedy manner, it is necessary to scrap the current health insurance cards.”

Tomoko Tamura of the Japanese Communist Party said, “Do you think that, under the current situation, people can use their My Number cards with a peace of mind?” She argued that the government should stop using My Number cards as health insurance cards. In response, Kishida said: “We will thoroughly check data and try to have all data registered correctly. We will firmly promote measures to protect personal information.”

The CDP and the JCP repeatedly criticized the government for the problems linked to the My Number health insurance card during Diet question-and-answer sessions on the day.

However, Kishida behaved with caution and did not raise his voice.

Too frequent problems

On June 2, the Diet passed a set of relevant bills, including the revised My Number law, to promote the use of the cards. Amid the recent revelation of a spate of problems involving the My Number health insurance card, people are increasingly concerned that the government is pushing to scrap current health insurance cards with many issues still unaddressed.

Concerning My Number health insurance cards, many problems have occurred at medical facilities. There have been 7,312 cases in which the cards were found to mistakenly contain data about the wrong individuals, making it unclear whether the government will be able to smoothly integrate the two cards in the autumn of next year.

Why the current health insurance cards should be scrapped has not been well explained, adding to distrust in the government.

Commenting on the problems related to My Number health insurance cards, Masako Mizumachi, a lawyer familiar with the My Number system, said: “The government should take enough time to understand and investigate the facts and take measures to prevent recurrence. The government’s policy is too hasty. If it scraps the current health insurance cards without confirming that there are no problems, it will cause major confusion.”

She is skeptical of integrating the two cards, saying, “There is room for discussion on the appropriateness of the policy.”

Point of contention

The series of problems related to My Number cards could affect Kishida’s strategy for dissolving the lower house. Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party now expect the Cabinet approval rating to go down, making it difficult to dissolve the lower house at the end of the current Diet session.

“It is impossible to dissolve the lower house and hold a snap election before resolving the problems. I would like Kishida to fulfill his accountability,” a young LDP member said.

Helped by the growing criticism from the public, opposition parties are ready to increase their confrontational stance against the government. CDP Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi told reporters Monday: “It is absolutely out of question to forcibly abolish the current health insurance cards. If the prime minister dissolves the lower house, we would like to make the issue a major point of contention”