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Doctors in Japan challenge govt mandatory use of digital ID for health services

Doctors in Japan challenge govt mandatory use of digital ID for health services

Several doctors and other individuals in Japan are suing the government to prevent the replacement of patients’ insurance cards with the national digital ID known as ‘My Number’ from April 2023.

According to reporting by The Mainichi, 274 individuals are included in the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association lawsuit filed with the Tokyo District Court this week.

In particular, the suit claims that in order for the government to require medical institutions to accept My Number cards, the Health Insurance Act should be amended.

Instead, the Japanese government proceeded by simply amending a ministerial ordinance and thus violating Article 41 of the Constitution (which establishes the national legislature as the sole body with power to make such changes).

From a practical standpoint, the plaintiffs also oppose using the new digital ID system because it is proving expensive to deploy.

The system includes the option to use a PIN or face biometrics along with their digital ID to access medical records and services. The face biometrics algorithms are provided by SAFR.

The lawsuit claims the cost of installing the system is about 700,000 yen (roughly US$5,190), with the price allegedly pushing some clinics to close.

“If elderly doctors who know their community well close their doors, local medical care will deteriorate,” comments Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association head Akio Suda as quoted by The Mainichi. “What the government is doing is destroying medical care.”

To counter these costs, the plaintiffs are asking the government to pay 100,000 yen (approx. $740) per plaintiff in compensation, under the rationale that their freedom to engage in medical activities had been affected by the new law.

Suda also says he intends to call additional medical practitioners’ associations in Japan to join the legal action.

The move comes a couple of months after Japan unveiled plans to collaborate with Apple to add My Number support on iPhone devices.

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