A health ministry panel of experts on Monday proposed making the nation’s primary care doctor system more organized by clarifying the function of such physicians in law, after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted ambiguities in the role they play in the community.

The proposal, however, stops short of making the registration of primary care providers mandatory for both doctors and patients amid concerns that the reform may restrict people’s freedom to choose their doctors.

The health ministry has pushed for citizens to choose their own local primary care physicians, but the role and function of such care providers — called kakaritsukei in Japanese — has thus far been only loosely defined, and has lacked legal basis.