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Japan doctors sue gov't for requiring use of 'My Number' IDs

A device to scan "My Number" ID cards for a person's health insurance status, using facial recognition or a PIN, is seen. (Mainichi/Yuki Nakagawa)

TOKYO -- A major doctor's association and others in the Japanese capital sued the national government on Feb. 22, demanding the courts confirm that medical institutions need not introduce a government online system that checks patients' insurance status using "My Number" personal ID cards instead of their insurance cards.

    A total of 274 people filed the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association-led suit with the Tokyo District Court. The plaintiffs argue that to require medical institutions to accept My Number cards, the government needed to amend the Health Insurance Act, but that it had only amended a ministerial ordinance, violating Article 41 of the Constitution stipulating the Diet as the sole legislative body.

    Medical institutions confirm patients' insurance status with either a health insurance card or a My Number card. In September 2022, the government amended a health ministry ordinance to stipulate that medical institutions must establish a system to check My Number cards for health insurance statuses from April 2023.

    The plaintiffs claim that though the ministerial ordinance is based on the Health Insurance Act, and the government amended the ordinance to require the acceptance of My Number cards, this change is not stipulated in the law. It costs about 700,000 yen (roughly $5,190) to install the system, and medical practitioners including elderly doctors are apparently considering closing because they find coping with it difficult.

    The plaintiffs also demand the government pay 100,000 yen (approx. $740) per plaintiff in compensation, claiming that their freedom to engage in medical activities had been infringed upon.

    After filing the suit, Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association head Akio Suda revealed his intention to call for other medical practitioners' associations in Japan to join the action. 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."

    (Japanese original by Koji Endo, Tokyo City News Department)

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