Photo/Illutration An example of a My Number card (Provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)

The Japanese government plans to abolish the current health insurance card system in the fall of 2024, the minister for digital transformation announced on Oct. 13.

The cards will be combined into the My Number identity card.

“I was instructed to work out the details so that we can gain the understanding of all concerned parties,” Taro Kono said at a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The move comes as the government proceeds with a plan to integrate identification cards into a single My Number card.

The My Number card, a digital identity card for Japanese citizens and residents, was introduced in 2016. The government started full-scale use of My Number cards as health insurance certificates in October 2021.

The government described the advantages of using the cards as health insurance certificates: My Number cards can automate reception at medical institutions through a facial recognition system and allow doctors and pharmacists to view information such as prescription records and specified medical checkups with a patient’s consent.

However, only around 30 percent of medical institutions and pharmacies have installed dedicated card readers. The health ministry plans to require them to introduce the systems starting in April 2023.

Only about 20 percent of the population have registered My Number cards for use as health insurance certificates.

In the Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform adopted in June this year, the government stated that it planned to scrap health insurance cards, in principle, but has not given a specific date for the abolition.

The government is considering reviewing the procedures and forms of My Number cards to ensure all residents obtain them before abolishing the current health insurance cards, according to Kono.

The government aims to have almost all citizens obtain My Number cards by the end of March 2023, but the issuance rate still stood at only 49 percent as of the end of September. 

The focus is whether the government can further spread My Number cards before the abolition of health insurance cards, in principle.

Since having a My Number card is not mandatory, the government’s explanations and public understanding will be essential.

The government also plans to incorporate the driver’s license function into the My Number card by the end of March 2025. Kono said the government is considering moving up the schedule. Officials are not planning to abolish the existing driver's licenses.