Medicare Data For Sale – 3 December 1999

The Government agency in charge of collecting Medicare data, namely the Health Insurance Commission (HIC), has outlined its intention to sell Medicare information to a range of customers including insurance companies, lawyers, and anyone who describes themselves as a private health body or a consumer of health services.

This revelation is contained in the HIC’s strategic plan contained in the just released 1998-99 HIC Annual Report.

According to the new strategic plan, prepared by consultants at a reported cost of $294,000, “Created ‘information’ can be packaged as a product to be sold or provided as a service for customers.”

The HIC will organise its business “…around acquiring, packaging and distributing information that builds on our current systems to meet our customers’ payment and health decision making needs.”

The HIC describes itself as a “customer driven organisation” with key result areas including “Exchange of complete, accurate and timely information between the HIC and our customers” and “The direct access to customised health information products and services.” The HIC also describes itself as being “highly competitive in the marketplace.”

The HIC states that its customers include insurers, legal professionals and claimants. It also defines its customers as including private health bodies, State health agencies, Commonwealth departments and agencies, and indeed, all Australian residents.

“The HIC’s plan conflicts with assurances given elsewhere in the report about privacy safeguards for patient information,” said Mr Stephen Milgate, Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund.

“Someone has a lot of explaining to do.”

“The HIC is either a custodian of confidential information under strict privacy laws or it is a commercial organisation intent on selling its information to the highest bidder. It cannot be both and it is about time we knew the truth of where this organisation is heading,” said Mr Milgate