Japan to scrap current non-digital health insurance cards in 2024

The Japanese government announced Thursday that it will in principle abolish health insurance cards in the fall of 2024 and integrate them into the national identification system “My Number”.

According to the plan, the My Number card will become mandatory as Japan’s health insurance system is open to all residents. The move is part of efforts to promote cards issued under the ID system. Identity systems have proven popular with only half of the population who currently own them.

The government will also consider bringing forward the date for integrating driver’s licenses into the system from the current target of the end of fiscal 2024, Digital Minister Taro Kono said at a press conference.

Digital Minister Taro Kono holds a press conference in Tokyo on October 13, 2022. (Joint)

Plans to integrate driver’s license data into national ID systems were announced in June 2020. The digital agency said Japan is not considering abolishing the current form of license at this time.

Launched in 2016, the ID card system issues a 12-digit number to every citizen and foreigner living in Japan to incorporate various personal data, including tax and social security information.

As part of efforts to promote the country’s digitalization, the government aims to have nearly all citizens obtain a My Number card by March 2023.

However, as of the end of September, only 49% of people had created and collected cards.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno said, “We will make further efforts (to dispel these concerns),” emphasizing that the government is trying to raise public awareness about the safety of the My Number system.

The government says the system will allow various procedures to be done electronically, improving convenience for people. For example, you can issue a resident card at a convenience store without going to the city hall.

My number card can now be used as a health insurance card. With the consent of the person, medical institutions can collect information such as past prescribed medicines and health checkups to prevent lifestyle-related diseases.

“This will help improve the quality of medical care,” Kono said.

To promote the use of the My Number system, the government has decided to grant shopping points worth up to 20,000 yen ($136) to individuals who obtain or apply for the card by the end of this year.

According to Kono, My Number cards can be added to Android smartphones from May 11 next year. However, he said it’s not yet decided when the card will be available on the iPhone.

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