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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4370

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - Has the Minister for Social Security had the opportunity of noting various medical and hospital benefit claim forms, for instance of the Hospital Benefits Association and the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, which require a claimant to authorise the hospital and medical authorities to supply any necessary information to the respective funds? I have some of these claim forms in my hand. Is the Minister concerned that compulsory authorisation is extracted from fund benefit applicants with the implied threat that no benefits will be paid unless this carte-blanche authorisation is given? Can he take steps to ensure that the privacy of contributors is maintained?

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - I have noted at least some of the application forms for benefit refunds used by some of the private insurance funds. I have not looked at them all, of course, and I do not intend to do so as there are more than 90 funds. I have noted on some of these forms a requirement that the applicant must give authority to the fund to have access to information and to use that information. There is no proviso or qualification guaranteeing a limitation on the way in which that information would be used. Given the way in which certain interests in this community, including some of the spokesmen for private health insurance funds, have performed on the issue of confidentiality, I would have thought that in the last 20 years during which private health insurance has operated those funds would have taken adequate steps to write in guarantees of the preservation of confidentiality and a clear statement of the limited use which would be made of this very personal information.

It is a fact that in the private funds there is a wide range of access to the sort of information which is recorded on behalf of applicants to the funds. In those funds which have manual recording systems it would be virtually impossible to maintain an effective check as to who has this access and what is done with that sort of information. This sort of confidentiality of which we are speaking and about which we are concerned will be preserved under the new health insurance program. No steps have been taken by previous governments to preserve it in relation to the present system of private health insurance. I shall certainly take the opportunity now that the honourable member has drawn my attention to this situation, of drawing the attention of the private health insurance funds to their obligations to maintain confidentiality. I shall inquire as to what steps they propose to take to ensure that this confidentiality is achieved.

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