Australia extends deadline for My Health Record opt-out

Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt has extended the deadline for opting out of the country’s controversial My Health Record system.

The scheme has faced criticism because of concerns over patients’ privacy, and they originally had until last week to opt out of the scheme.

But following public pressure and a motion in the senate, Hunt decided to extend the deadline to January 31.

According to ABC News, Hunt said: “The opt-out period will be extended until January 31, 2019, however, it’s important to note that people can opt-out at any time.”

Hunt intervened to extend the opt-out deadline while politicians continue to debate legislation to amend the scheme.

Under My Health Record, every Australian with a Medicare card will automatically be given a digital record to store medical information unless they say otherwise.

Earlier this month Hunt unveiled changes to the scheme to address a range of concerns about privacy, such as whether violent exes would be able to access the records of their former partners.

Other changes include increased penalties, with fines more than doubling to $315,000 or up to five years’ jail for those who misuse the system.

The Australian Digital Health Agency will not be able to allow other entities to access the records, health insurers will not be able to access them and employers may not use them to discriminate against workers.

Data from September shows that 1.147 million Australians have opted out of the system, and around six million people already have a record after being enrolled under the previous opt-in system.

There were reports that some users were finding it difficult to log on to the site to opt-out – but the Australian Digital Health Agency that runs the scheme said the website and telephone helpline were operational.

A spokesperson told ABC that it had increased the number of helping operatives to deal with demand.

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