The Senate today passed a crossbench amendment to legislation strengthening privacy protections for the electronic health record system, pushing the date until January 31 next year.
But the new date won’t come into effect before Thursday when the opt-out period ends because the bill needs to return to the House of Representatives which doesn’t sit again until November 26.
Labor and the Greens, along with independents Tim Storer and Derryn Hinch, wanted a one-year extension but their amendment was voted down 32 to 30.
About four per cent of Australians (1.147 million) have so far opted out of the electronic health record system, while more than 300,000 have opted in during the opt-out period which ends on Thursday.
However, the final opt-out figure is expected to hit 10 per cent.
Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said My Health Record promised huge benefits for people which participated, but they had been jeopardised by the Liberals shifting away from Labor’s opt-in model.
“Their botched rollout has seriously undermined public trust in this important reform and it’s going to take time to rebuild it,” Ms King said in a statement.
Liberal senator Jane Hume said Australians have already had a significant period to get out of the system and will still be able to get rid of their record once the opt-out period ends.
“At any point in time, you can remove yourself from the My Health Record program and you can delete your file, and it will be deleted permanently,” she told reporters in Canberra today.
Health Minister Greg Hunt argues there have been no cases of misuse of information in the six years the system has operated, but the government was willing to provide further protections.
Under the bill before the Senate, 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.
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