The Japanese government has unveiled plans to discontinue its current health insurance card system and integrate its functionalities within the My Number digital ID infrastructure, phasing out the existing system by fall 2024, reports the Asahi Shimbun.

The intentions were revealed by Digital Minister Taro Kono earlier this month at Japan’s Digital Day events, alongside other plans for the country’s digitization, reports GovInsider Asia.

By integrating health insurance cards into My Number, Japanese citizens will be able to automate healthcare access at medical institutions via face biometrics checks and allow doctors and pharmacists to easily view information, including prescription records and medical checkups, after obtaining patients’ consent.

At the same time, according to the Asahi Shimbun, only around 30 percent of medical institutions and pharmacies currently have dedicated card readers for My Number installed, and only about 20 percent of the population have registered My Number cards for use as health insurance certificates so far.

To speed up the process, the Japanese government said it intends to require healthcare facilities to introduce the digital ID readers starting in April 2023.

Kono, who was the driving force behind the elimination of carved hanko ink seals in Japan and the overseer of COVID-19 vaccine rollout, clarified that the government will ensure all residents have time to register to use their health insurance cards with My Number before abolishing the current system.

As of September, the overall issuance rate of My Number IC chip-embedded plastic identity card and connected digital IDs stood at 49 percent. The government hopes almost all citizens can obtain My Number cards by March 2023.

Kono also confirmed plans to incorporate the driver’s license into the My Number digital ID by the end of March 2025, or potentially sooner. Unlike the health insurance cards, however, the Digital Minister said the government is not planning to abolish existing driving licenses.

Additional services planned to be integrated within My Number eventually include passport applications, paying traffic fines and vehicle registration fees, among others.

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