Calls Grow for Postponement of Deadline to Scrap Health Insurance Certificates

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is seen on Monday morning.

Amid mounting calls from the ruling parties for the postponement of a deadline to scrap health insurance certificates, which the government plans to get rid of as the functionality of the insurance certification is now included in the My Number system, the administration is struggling to deal with the fallout over problems with My Number IDs.

The government hopes to allay public concerns as soon as possible, eying the possibility of a snap election in autumn.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato used his My Number card to check his medical treatment history during a visit to a hospital in Kawasaki on Monday. “It’s important for the public to actually use their health insurance-linked My Number cards to understand the merits,” Kato said to reporters.

The government plans to give a thorough explanation about the issue during out-of-session deliberations in the House of Councillors on Wednesday.

At a press conference on Monday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said the government will “continue working on a comprehensive review and preventive measures to regain public trust as soon as possible.”

However, criticism has been mounting within the ruling parties, regarding the timeline of the government’s plan to integrate the functionality of health insurance certificates into the My Number system.

“The deadline for the integration is not necessary. Creating opportunities for the public to promote understanding of the issue is what’s needed,” Koichi Hagiuda, chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, said to reporters in Koshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Monday.

According to a veteran LDP lawmaker, Hagiuda has publicly voiced objections because of a belief among some ruling party members that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been naive about the issue.

The government had planned to scrap health insurance certificates by autumn 2024. It subsequently set a grace period so that existing certificates would be valid through autumn 2025.

According to a nationwide Yomiuri Shimbun survey conducted from July 21 to 23, 58% of respondents opposed the integration of health insurance certificates into the My Number system, and 33% supported it.

A senior LDP member said: “As long as there is dissatisfaction among the public, [the government] should deal flexibly with the issue. It would be an idea to adopt for the time being a system under which people can choose between insurance-linked My Number cards or existing health insurance certificates.”

Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of LDP coalition partner Komeito, said: “The government’s response to the issue is unclear. It’s necessary to explain thoroughly the merits of the integration.”

Because there is no sign of a resolution to problems with the My Number system, there are calls within the ruling parties to postpone the integration deadline.

The government has established a headquarters to conduct a comprehensive review of My Number and plans to complete work to fix the system by autumn. But new problems could emerge.

Some LDP lawmakers want to allay public concerns ahead of the next lower house election. Meanwhile, opposition parties intend to strengthen their offensive over the issue.

“[The government] is pushing ahead with the plan to scrap health insurance certificates without listening to the public,” Kenta Izumi, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters on Sunday.

The CDPJ plans to grill digital minister Taro Kono and other Cabinet members over the issue during Wednesday’s out-of-session Diet deliberations.