Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came under fire from opposition parties for problems linked to My Number identification cards in Diet deliberations on Monday.
Kishida apologized for a series of problems and asked for understanding of the government's plan to scrap the current health insurance cards in autumn 2024. However, the criticism has been unrelenting. Some observers say that the current situation might affect Kishida's strategy for the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
"I take the situation seriously. I apologize for the problems members of the public have faced," Kishida said at a meeting of the Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration in the lower house Monday morning in response to criticism from Ryuichi Yoneyama of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who said there were major problems with the integration of My Number IDs and health insurance cards.
At a meeting of the Audit Committee of the House of Councillors on the afternoon of the same day, another CDPJ lawmaker, Takumi Onuma, fiercely criticized the integration of the cards.
"To provide quality healthcare in a speedy manner, it is necessary to scrap the current health insurance cards," Kishida said, calling for understanding of the government's efforts to integrate the function into My Number IDs and scrap health insurance cards in the autumn of next year.
"Do you think that, under the current situation, people can use their My Number cards with peace of mind?" asked Tomoko Tamura of the Japanese Communist Party, who urged the government to stop using My Number cards as health insurance cards. In response, Kishida said: "We will thoroughly check the data and try to have all data registered correctly. We will firmly promote measures to protect personal information."
The CDPJ and the JCP repeatedly criticized the government for the problems linked to the integration of My Number and health insurance cards during Diet question-and-answer sessions on the day.
However, Kishida behaved with caution and did not raise his voice.
On June 2, the Diet passed a set of relevant bills, including the revised My Number law, to promote the use of the cards.
Amid a spate of problems faced by cardholders who are already using My Number IDs as health insurance cards, people are increasingly concerned that the government is pushing to scrap current health insurance cards with many issues still unaddressed.
Many of the problems have occurred at medical facilities. There have been 7,312 cases in which the cards were found to mistakenly contain data about the wrong individuals, making it unclear whether the government will be able to scrap current health insurance cards in the autumn of next year.
Why the current health insurance cards should be scrapped has not been well explained, adding to distrust of the government.
Commenting on the recent problems, Masako Mizumachi, a lawyer familiar with the My Number system, said: "The government should take enough time to understand and investigate the facts and take measures to prevent a recurrence of the problems. The government's policy is too hasty. If it scraps the current health insurance cards without confirming that there are no problems, it will cause major confusion."
She is skeptical of integrating the two cards, saying, "There is room for discussion on the appropriateness of the policy."
Spate of problems
The series of problems related to My Number cards could affect Kishida's strategy for dissolving the lower house. Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party now expect the Cabinet approval rating to go down, making it difficult to dissolve the lower house at the end of the current Diet session.
"It is impossible to dissolve the lower house and hold a snap election before resolving the problems. I would like the prime minister to fulfill his accountability," a young LDP lawmaker said.
Helped by the growing criticism from the public, opposition parties are ready to increase their confrontational stance against the government. CDPJ Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi told reporters Monday: "It is absolutely out of the question to forcibly abolish the current health insurance cards. If the prime minister dissolves the lower house, we would like to make the issue a major point of contention."
Read more from The Japan News at https://japannews.yomiuri.co.jp/