Photo/Illutration An Upper House special committee on May 31 passes legislation that will, among other things, replace health insurance cards with My Number Cards in autumn 2024. (Koichi Ueda)

Despite recent reports of troubling technical glitches, the Individual Number Card is on track to replace health insurance cards in autumn 2024 although exceptions will be made for those declining to obtain one. 

An Upper House special committee on May 31 passed legislation to revise various laws, with one eliminating health insurance cards, in principle. The Upper House is expected to pass the legislation into law on June 2.

The function of the health insurance cards will be assumed by the Individual Number Card, known more popularly as the My Number Card.

But there have been reports recently of improper linking of the My Number Card with health insurance information, leading to some individuals accessing the medical information of strangers.

There will be exceptions for those who do not apply for a My Number Card, because there is no law requiring everyone to obtain such a card.

Those who do not wish to apply or those, such as senior citizens, who may feel troubled by applying for the card, will be issued a different document by their health insurance provider certifying their eligibility for coverage.

Health ministry officials said they were planning to allow family members or staff at elderly care facilities to apply for the eligibility certificate on behalf of the senior citizen.

No details have been decided on how to handle those individuals who also refuse to apply for the eligibility certificate. One option would be for the health insurance provider to make case-by-case decisions to issue the certificate.

The legislation that is expected to pass the Upper House will also establish a new system that links the My Number Card with an account at a financial institution that is used for deposits of government outlays, such as pensions.

Individuals will be notified by mail that an account will be linked to the My Number Card. If the individual does not clearly object to having the link made within a certain time period, the assumption will be that consent was given and the connection made.

But that could give some individuals the impression that the government unilaterally linked the My Number Card to a financial institution account and heighten distrust toward the My Number Card system.

The legislation will also expand the range of government sectors in which the My Number Card can be used. Currently, there are only three such sectors--social security, taxes and disaster management.

But in the future, the My Number Card could be used when obtaining a national license, registering an automobile or for procedural matters involving foreign residents.

And the central government could more easily expand the government services accessible through the My Number Card.

Until now, legal revisions were required to expand the range, but the legislation currently before the Upper House would allow the government to use the My Number Card for “clerical matters that are equivalent” to those now covered under the law.

(This article was written by Shuhei Shibata and Taro Kotegawa.)