The health ministry plans to assign an identification number to each person covered by Japan’s universal public health insurance system, officials said Wednesday.

The ministry hopes to build a computer system by fiscal 2020 that will allow the insured to access the results of their own health checkups and other information online using the ID numbers, the officials said.

They expressed hope that the measure will promote the public awareness of health, which in turn would contribute to curbing medical expenses.

Public health insurance certificates with the ID numbers will be issued from fiscal 2019. The changeover to the new numbers is expected to be complete by July 2020.

The ministry’s plan was presented to the day’s meeting of a subgroup of the Social Security Council, which advises the health minister.

At present, the public health insurance system, including insurance provided by municipalities and businesses, assigns ID numbers by family.

Information on the insured, such as their names, medical histories and checkup results, are kept by their insurers. When insured people move to other insurers for reasons such as changes of job and residence, their information kept at the old insurers will not be transferred to the new ones in principle.

Under the ministry’s plan, an ID number of around 16 digits will be assigned to each insured person and their information will be centrally managed by the Health Insurance Claims Review & Reimbursement Services and the All-Japan Federation of National Health Insurance Organizations, which is the central body for municipal insurers.

The ministry aims to build systems to allow the insured to check their information online and medical institutions to share patients’ medical treatment and drug administration records.

The changeover will affect more than 100 million insured people living in the country. The key problem would be how to cover the costs to revise computer systems at the insurer organizations included in the public health insurance system.

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