Japan’s plan to phase out public health insurance cards in favor of linking services to a digital ID card could force those who oppose digitization to sign up.
From autumn 2024, the existing non-photo National Health Insurance Cards will no longer be accepted, officially replaced by My Number Cards.
The My Number card, which has been around since 2016, incorporates a chip and photo, and links to other credits like driver’s licenses and tax department accounts.
Cardholders use a PIN and the card to access services such as Mynaportal – an online system for registering and modifying bank accounts, viewing health insurance information, verifying information on retirement and other related services.
“The My Number system is NOT a system that maintains or manages your information in a central place. Each administrative agency manages and operates (sic) the information independently and works with the information relevant only for their operations”, explains a FAQ linked to by Digital Minister Kono Taro in a Wednesday tweets.
“The My Number card alone can do nothing but rely on the IC chip or your face/photo combination,” the FAQ explains, before reassuring readers that “information such as your taxes, your retirement information and medical records cannot be obtained from the chip if someone else tries to access your lost card.”
Kono is among Japanese politicians pushing users towards the My Number Card. There’s only one problem: Japanese residents seem reluctant to adopt them, with an online petition to keep the current health cards quickly gathering 100,000 signatures.
Many are dragging their feet for fear of fraud or privacy breaches, but reluctance also has a deeply cultural component. Japan, as a society, remains sadly slow to transition to new technologies – some still embrace nostalgic relics like floppy disks and fax machines.
The situation of retaining old technology has been problematic for a country that, like the rest of the world, has had to deal with an impromptu large-scale transition to working from home and electronic delivery of government services.
And thus was born the country’s Digital Agency – founded in September 2021 – of which Kono is the responsible minister, responsible for strengthening the digitalization of Japan.
On Wednesday, Kono appeared in a YouTube video [VIDEO] posted on the agency’s website in which he campaigns for the integration of My Number Cards.
This isn’t the first time Kono has addressed Japanese audiences on YouTube.
“I would like to speak to people in the midst of a declining and aging population. Together, to create a warm society, we must take advantage of machines and AI by digitizing. To this end, I would like to popularize My Number Cards and expand their use,” pleaded [VIDEO] the minister said at the end of August
Minister of Home Affairs and Communications, Terada Minoru, also appeared in a video in which he explained: “Through the response to the coronavirus, it has become clear that the delay in digitization is a social problem and that it there is a strong need for digitization of society as a whole. . Under these circumstances, My Number Card is a key tool for the digitization of public administration.”
“Going forward, a policy to remove health insurance cards has been indicated,” Terada added.
The goal is for almost all citizens to have a My Number Card by March 2023. But on October 14, Terada revealed at a press conference that the total number of My Number Card applicants had reached 70.79 million and the number of cards issued was 62.53. million – leaving a backlog of over eight million. The population of Japan is 125 million.
Additionally, the process of obtaining a card itself can be tedious. The card application was – no kidding – originally only available through the Postal Service until, by its own admission, the issuing authority received enough complaints to offer it online as well. Candidates must collect the card in person, proving their identity with a multitude of documents.
Once the card is in hand, access to the system can also be difficult. Users who forget their PIN can be locked out of their account, and the website itself can be difficult for the non-digitally savvy. In addition, if the card is stolen or lost, it takes two months to get a new one.
Local media have reported that long queues and wait times await those wishing to collect their cards. A woman reportedly waited in person for five hours to collect her card, after recipients mistook a deadline for a card-linked incentive that would provide $136 worth of shopping coupons.
In another press conference on October 21, Terada acknowledged that the integration presented certain problems – such as the treatment of infants and the rapid delivery in the event of loss – which led several government organizations to review the procedures of card acquisition request.
In parliament this week, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly said the country would continue with plans to phase out health insurance cards. However, the government will make arrangements for those who contribute to plans to continue using their public health insurance. ®
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