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Japan requires foreigners to have ID card to receive basic care

Foreign residents to be required to show residence cards to receive health care.


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Updated: November 19, 2018

The government is planning to require foreign residents to show residence cards or other photo identification when receiving medical care in Japan, sources said.

The move is prompted by concerns about people using health insurance cards that are not their own to fraudulently receive medical care. This is a particularly serious worry due to plans to begin admitting more foreign workers from April.

To ensure the requirement does not discriminate against foreign residents, the government is considering also requiring Japanese people to show driver’s licenses or other forms of ID.

The requirements could go into force as early as next fiscal year. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to thoroughly notify foreign residents and encourage medical institutions to ask for ID.

Residence cards are a form of photo identification given to foreign residents who stay in Japan for three months or longer. By law, foreign residents are required to carry these cards at all times.

Japan’s universal health insurance system, as a rule, requires foreign residents to enroll in the system.

Anyone with an insurance card, whether Japanese or foreign, can receive medical care if they shoulder 30 percent of the cost, in principle.

However, insurance cards do not have photographs. “Even if a hospital thinks it may be another person, if the patient insists, ‘It’s me,’ it’s difficult to dispute that,” a senior health ministry official said.

A Liberal Democratic Party working group on medical care for foreign residents has interviewed representatives of the medical field and municipalities, hearing reports on cases of people impersonating others to receive medical care.

In 2014, a Vietnamese woman living illegally in Kobe used the insurance card of her younger sister, a resident of Japan, to fraudulently receive care for HIV. Reducing one’s own medical expenses by using another person’s insurance card could be considered an illegal act.

The government submitted a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law that would increase the number of foreign workers to the present extraordinary Diet session. It is expected that over a five-year period starting in fiscal 2019, as many as 345,150 foreign workers could be admitted to work in a total of 14 industries, such as nursing care and construction.

Along with the revision of the law, the government decided that new measures for confirming people’s identities were needed to prevent fraudulent use of the health insurance system.

Because some Japanese people are also likely to have received medical care by impersonating others, making only foreign residents show their IDs might result in promoting discrimination against them.

For this reason, the government is considering a framework that would also require Japanese people to show a driver’s license or My Number identification card along with an insurance card.

However, there are some challenges in the framework, as not everyone has a driver’s license and, as of Wednesday, only 12.2 percent of the population had a My Number card.



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The Japan News
About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

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