A group of physicians challenged the central Japanese government over an edict by the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) mandating the use of a national ID instead of health insurance cards for medical care.
The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association (TMPA) alongside 273 other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit with a Tokyo district court against the MHLW’s order. According to the order, hospitals and other medical institutions will need to ask those seeking treatment for their My Number cards instead of health insurance cards. The My Number cards come in both a physical ID card and a digital version.
The plaintiffs argued that requiring medical institutions to accept My Number cards calls for the National Diet – Japan’s parliament – to amend the Health Insurance Act. By amending the act through a ministry ordinance, Tokyo violated Article 41 of the Japanese Constitution denoting that the Diet “shall be the sole law-making organ of the state.”
Moreover, they argued that the My Number system is expensive to deploy. Installation costs about ¥700,000 ($5,121), a price too high for some medical practitioners. Some doctors have considered closing down their practice permanently as a result.
The lawsuit petitioned the court to order the government to pay ¥100,000 ($731.60) per plaintiff as the complainants’ freedom to engage in medical activities had been infringed upon.
TMPA head Dr. Akio Suda called for other medical associations across Japan to join the lawsuit. He said: “If elderly doctors who know their community well close their doors, local medical care will deteriorate. What the government is doing is destroying medical care.”
My Number system brainchild of PM Suga
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has made digitalization in the Japanese government a top priority since he took office in September 2020. The My Number system that combines social security and tax numbers into one is a key part of this effort. Alongside this, Tokyo has pledged to better utilize the system and expand its use.
Under the My Number system, Japanese residents are allocated a 12-digit number. Even when a person gets married, moves to a different residence or changes jobs, the number will remain the same. The 12-digit number can be used for social security, taxation and disaster response. (Related: Diabolical — How digital ID will control your life.)
The physical version of the My Number ID, which can be presented just like a regular ID, bears the person’s number and picture. It also has a chip containing an electronic certificate and basic information such as the person’s name, address, date of birth and gender.
The Japanese government had offered points to encourage the use of My Number IDs among the population. But seven years after introducing the system, only half of the population had signed up. Aside from the hassle involved in obtaining an ID card, deep-rooted uneasiness and distrust regarding the government’s data management contributed to the limited uptake of the IDs.
In September of last year, the Japanese government – via the MHLW – announced a new order requiring medical institutions to establish a system for checking My Number cards. This would take effect starting April 2023.
In October 2022, Tokyo announced that health insurance cards would be abolished in the fall of 2024 and incorporated into the My Number system. The move essentially mandated Japanese people to obtain a My Number ID as it is now required for insurance-covered medical treatments. This also led to the lawsuit filed by TMPA and the other plaintiffs.
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Watch Neil Oliver of GB News as he warns that the use of a digital ID would make the public “guilty until proven innocent.”
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