More changes to My Health Record

The government will be introducing further amendments to MHR, including protections for people fleeing domestic violence and tougher penalties for misuse

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the government will be introducing further amendments to the My Health Record legislation.

Comprising a second round of amendments, these changes include increased penalties for improper use of My Health Record – with the maximum criminal penalty increasing from two to five years’ jail, and an increase in maximum fines for individuals from $126,000 to $315,000.

Proposed provisions will also aim to ensure that a person cannot be the authorised representative of a minor in the My Health record system if they have restricted access to the child, or may pose a risk to the child – or a person associated with the child.

Employers will be prohibited from requesting and using health information in an individual’s My Health Record, and the amendments will also protect employees and potential employees from discriminatory use of their My Health Record.

Under the changes, no health information or de-identified data will be released to private health insurers, and other types of insurers for research or public health purposes.

The government will also conduct a review looking into whether it is appropriate that parents have default access to the records of 14-17 year olds, after several groups warned that this could undermine the ability of young people to access confidential medical care.

The first round of amendments formed the My Health Records Amendment (Strengthening Privacy) Bill 2018, ensuring that law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s My Health Record with a warrant and court order, and that anyone who chooses to cancel a record at any time will have that record permanently deleted.

My Health Record’s opt-out period ends next week on Thursday 15 November, however Labor has called for this period to be extended.

“The Liberals are finally moving to clean up their My Health Record mess – by adopting Labor’s proposed changes – but they still need to act and extend the opt-out period,” said Shadow Health Minister Catherine King in a statement.

“This has been an absolute debacle and Australians need more time to understand the changes. These changes have been made with only days left until the opt-out deadline closes.”

Ms King also criticised Minister Hunt on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) supported the proposed amendments, saying that the changes will address concerns raised by the organisation – especially around privacy, confidentiality and access by insurers.

“We initially worked with the Government on a first draft of the Bill to fix the concerns about warrant access, and to allow people to delete their record, which gives them the practical ability to opt-out at any time should they choose,” Dr Bartone said.

“These amendments are now in the Bill.

“The AMA also supports the Labor amendments to the Bill. We consulted Labor about their suggestions and agree that they further improve the Bill, and provide stronger protections for our patients.

“We welcome this morning’s announcement that the Government will adopt the Labor suggestions.”

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