After seeing many COVID-19 patients turned away from neighborhood physicians at the height of the pandemic, the Japanese government has begun considering reforms to the nation’s health care system that would require doctors in private practice to register as primary care physicians and see local patients more reliably.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced his plan Tuesday to establish a full-fledged primary care doctor system in Japan during discussions with a government panel on social security. While the health ministry has pushed for citizens to choose their own local primary care physicians, the role and condition of such care providers — called kakaritsuke-i in Japanese — has thus far only been loosely defined.

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