Independent review of health providers’ access to Medicare card numbers

The Australian Government commissioned a review in response to claims Medicare card details were sold on the internet. The review has closed and we are now implementing the recommendations.

Background

On 10 July 2017, the Australian Government announced an Independent Review of Health Providers’ Access to Medicare Card Numbers (the review). The review examined access by Health professionals to Medicare card numbers by using the Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) system or by calling us.

The review panel members were:

  • Professor Peter Shergold AC
  • Dr Michael Gannon, President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA)
  • Dr Bastian Seidel, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)

The review identified options to improve the security of Medicare card numbers within the department’s HPOS system and telephone channel, while continuing to support access to health services without unnecessarily increasing the administrative workload faced by health professionals.

On 16 February 2018, the Australian Government released its response to the independent review, agreeing without qualification to 13 recommendations and agreeing in-principle to the remaining recommendation. The response also acknowledges the excellent work of Professor Shergold and the review panel. 

Scope

The review considered the balance between appropriate access to a patient’s Medicare number for health professionals to confirm Medicare eligibility, with the security of patients’ Medicare card numbers.

The review examined and advised on:

  • the type of identifying information that a person should be required to produce to access Medicare treatment in both urgent and non-urgent medical situations
  • the effectiveness of controls over registration and authentication processes at the health provider's premises to access Medicare card numbers
  • security risks and controls surrounding the provision of Medicare numbers across the telephone channel, and the online connection between external medical software providers and HPOS
  • the sufficiency of control by patients and the appropriateness of patient notification regarding access to their Medicare number
  • the adequacy of compliance systems to identify any potential inappropriate access to a patient’s Medicare number
  • any other identified area of potential weakness associated with policy, process, procedures and systems in relation to accessibility of Medicare numbers

Submissions

The review panel invited submissions from interested parties on the issues raised in the discussion paper. The review panel considered feedback and suggestions in its final report to government.

Unless confidentiality was requested, all submissions, other than contact details, are public information and available below:

If you're using assistive technology and can't access submissions to the review, please contact us.

The department is required under the Disability and Discrimination Act to make all information published on our website accessible to all.

Consultation

The review panel also worked closely with relevant stakeholders including:

  • Australian Government
  • State and Territory Governments
  • AMA
  • RACGP
  • Australian Association of Practice Managers
  • Consumer Health Forum

A secretariat from the Australian Government departments of Human Services, Health, and Attorney-General’s supported the review.

Australian Government response to the related Senate Inquiry

On 21 February 2018, the Government tabled its response to the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee report on the ‘circumstances in which Australians’ personal Medicare information has been compromised and made available for sale illegally on the ‘dark web’ (the report). The majority report had no recommendations, but a dissenting report from the Australian Greens had four recommendations. The Government response agrees in-principle to one recommendation and does not support the remaining three recommendations.

Implementation of the recommendations

We’ve commenced work on the 14 recommendations contained in the review. We’ve focused on improving the security of access to Medicare card numbers by enhancing our systems and by raising public awareness about the importance of the Medicare card.

We’ll continue to balance appropriate access for health professionals with the security of patient’s Medicare information.

If you would like further information in relation to the ongoing implementation of the Review’s recommendations, please contact the implementation team.

Further information

Page last updated: 4 July 2018