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Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Page: 921


Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:17 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Healthcare Identifiers (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010 (‘the bill’) seeks to make a number of minor consequential amendments to existing acts to support the introduction of the Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010, which has just been introduced into the House.

The Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 seeks to establish a single national healthcare identifier system for patients, healthcare providers and healthcare provider organisations.

As I have noted, this system will facilitate reliable health care-related communications, support the management of patient information in an electronic environment and provide the foundations necessary to support the development of a national e-health system.

The development of a national e-health system will improve safety and quality and patient convenience by ensuring that the right people have access to the right information at the right time.

The fragmented approach to identification that currently exists does not provide the accuracy or consistency needed to confidently share health information in an electronic environment.

The Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 seeks to overcome this issue.

To ensure the Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 operates appropriately and effectively, minor amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973 and the Privacy Act 1988 are required.

For example, the Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 seeks to allocate functions relevant to the operation of the Healthcare Identifiers Service to the CEO of Medicare Australia. This includes functions relevant to the day-to-day operation of the service.

To support the day-to-day running of the service, it is necessary to provide the CEO of Medicare Australia with the authority to delegate functions allocated to his or her office. To enable this to occur, minor amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973 are required.

Minor amendments to the Privacy Act 1988 are also required to ensure that an act or practice that breaches the Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 is classified as an interference with the privacy of an individual, subject to investigation by the federal Privacy Commissioner. Any such investigation will be undertaken in accordance with the Privacy Commissioner’s existing functions and the specific functions established to support healthcare identifiers.

Inclusion of the provision in the Privacy Act 1988 supports the strong privacy framework which has been established for the Healthcare Identifiers Service and provides patients and healthcare providers with confidence in the compliance and enforcement arrangements.

Other minor technical changes to the Privacy Act are also required to ensure the Privacy Act 1988 and the Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 operate appropriately together and to take account of changes to the Privacy Act that will come into effect with the commencement of the Personal Property Securities (Consequential Amendments) Act.

This bill seeks to make these changes to ensure the Healthcare Identifiers Service operates effectively and as intended.

I commend the consequential amendments bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Gash) adjourned.