Pressure to extend health record opt-out

Pressure to extend health record opt-out


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Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the government will pursue harsher penalties for those who misuse the system. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the government will pursue harsher penalties for those who misuse the system. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen.

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Australians have a week left to opt-out.

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Australians have a week left to opt-out of the nation's controversial online medical records system, with the federal government revealing plans for further changes to protect its data.

But the coalition is under pressure to extend the opt-out period beyond November 15, until the changes have been properly dealt with by parliament.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday announced the government would pursue harsher penalties for those who misuse the system.

People found guilty of improper use of My Health Record would face up to five years in jail, instead of two, and the maximum fine would more than double to $315,000.

Victims of domestic violence would also be better protected, with abusive former partners banned from accessing their child's records.

Private health insurers would also be kept further from the system's data, being unable to access it even when it has been de-identified.

Labor had pushed for some of those changes last month.

That came after the coalition put forward others to boost privacy by ensuring police and government agencies will need a court order to obtain patient data, which have passed the lower house.

The changes have earned the backing of health advocates including the Australian Medical Association.

The Consumer Health Forum, Labor and incoming independent Kerryn Phelps are also supportive but want the opt-out period extended until after the changes have passed parliament.

The House of Representatives won't sit again until late November, more than a week after the current opt-out deadline.

Dr Phelps said giving Australians more time to decide on whether they want a record would ensure concerns about privacy and security are properly addressed.

"Minister Hunt needs to urgently extend the opt-out period in order for the parliament to do its job to negotiate and then pass appropriate amendments," she said in a statement.

But Mr Hunt noted that under amendments already passed by the lower house, those who want to delete their record after the opt-out period will have their record permanently deleted.

"It's arguably the safest system in the world, but most importantly, it's about giving people for the first time their own medical records when they need them," he told the Nine Network Thursday.

"It's a modern part of any health management system."

Australian Associated Press

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