I just want to be devil’s advocate here regarding the outsourcing of Medicare payment services to the private sector. One of the great privacy protections enjoyed by the Australian public is the fact that the private sector cannot access their medical records. You might be happy for your GP to know that you suffer from back pain, coeliac disease, are pregnant or are suffering from depression, but you might not want your employer to know.
However, it is not just your employer you need to worry about. you also need to consider your insurance company. If you die unexpectedly, and have a life insurance policy you might die comforted by the knowledge that your loved ones will be provided with whatever money is in the policy you have been paying for.
What you probably don’t know is that your loved one will actually go through between 6 months and 2 years of hell, as your insurance company exhausts all options to avoid paying out on said policy. The two most common reasons they will try and avoid paying are “pre-existing medical condition”, and “failure to fully disclose medical history”.
A team of “insurance adjustors” (code for people who adjust your claim from what you think you have paid for, to as little as possible) will send requests to GPs, psychologists, surgeons and anyone else they think might have incriminating information looking for evidence to support rejection of the claim.
If you died of a heart attack, but ten years ago your GP told you you have high blood pressure and need to lose some weight, you better expect that your loved one is going to have a hard time getting the payout you think you have been buying with your policy.
Right now, these adjustors cannot access the medicare records, which means their searching for ways to avoid paying is somewhat limited. However, when this job is outsourced to Circo, or ANZ, or Telstra, or whoever else wins the tender, what is to stop them from charging insurance companies a fee to search the database. Ignoring this kind of lucrative revenue stream would be irresponsible for a CEO answerable to shareholders.
Currently this debate is being framed in terms of economic efficiency vs protecting jobs. But there is a bigger principle at stake – privacy. For those who say “you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide”, let me say categorically, We all having something to hide. You just don’t know what it is until you are dead and an insurance company is trying to avoid paying up.