Insurers to be banned from accessing de-identified My Health Record data

Government backs further changes to My Health Record

The government plans to make a range of additional changes to the legislation governing the My Health Record system to help assuage privacy concerns, including banning insurers from participating in the ‘secondary use’ framework for access to de-identified data.

Health minister Greg Hunt in August introduced a bill that made a number of changes to the eHealth record system, including requiring police to obtain a warrant before accessing My Health Record data and allowing individuals to have their records deleted (currently, if an individual wishes to cancel their eHealth record access is removed but the data is retained).

The House of Representatives in September passed the My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018; the bill is currently before the Senate.

Hunt today detailed additional changes the government would seek to make to the system, in the wake of a Senate inquiry into My Health Record. Those changes include strengthening provisions to safeguard against domestic violence, preventing employers from requesting access to an employee’s data, and increasing fines for improper use of My Health Record data.

The government said it would also prevent the release of health information or de-identified data to insurers, including private health insurers, for “research or public health purposes”.

The legislation governing the eHealth record system allows for a framework for “secondary use” of My Health data, such as research, policy analysis and work on improving health services.

The current secondary-use framework allows commercial organisations to apply to use the My Health Record data “so long as it can be demonstrated that the use is consistent with ‘research and public health purposes’ and is likely to generate public health benefits and/or be in the public interest”.

The government said it plans to review whether it is appropriate that parents have default access to the My Health Records of 14-17-year-olds.

The (extended) deadline for individuals to opt-out of the My Health Record is 15 November. After that date, anyone who has not opted out will have a record automatically created. Currently, some 6.1 million people have a record in the system, according to the government.

Shadow health minister Catherine King called for the opt-out period to be further extended.

“This has been an absolute debacle and Australians need more time to understand the changes,” a statement released by King said.

“These changes have been made with only days left until the opt-out deadline closes.”

“Because the government’s exiting legislation will need to be amended, it will need to be sent back to the lower house for approval - and the lower house doesn't sit again until 10 days after the opt-out period ends,” King said.  

The Labor MP called for a privacy commissioner review “to address outstanding privacy concerns about system settings.”

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