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Review recommends tightening Medicare security

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

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In the wake of allegations that the Medicare numbers of all Australians are for sale on the dark web, an independent review has made a series of recommendations for improving the security of Medicare card numbers.

The review, led by Western Sydney University Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold, was commissioned by the government in July to evaluate improving Medicare security while continuing to support access to health services.

The review was commissioned following media reports alleging that a data breach had allowed hackers to illegally access the Medicare numbers of all Australians and sell them on the dark web.

It confirmed that while a Medicare card can be used to help verify an identity and is therefore susceptible to theft for identity fraud purposes, a Medicare number itself is not sufficient to access any clinical or claims information or an individual’s My Health Record.

The 14 recommendations include a proposed awareness campaign from the Department of Human Services urging the public to protect their Medicare card details.

Health professionals should also be required to take reasonable steps to confirm the identity of patients as a condition of claiming Medicare benefits on their behalf, and to seek consent from patients before accessing their Medicare numbers.

The authors also proposed a mechanism for individuals to request an audit log of health professionals who have sought access to their Medicare card number.

Requests for Medicare numbers through Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) should also be limited to requests of 50 card numbers per day and inactive HPOS accounts should be suspended.

Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge and Minister for Health Greg Hunt have welcomed the findings of the review, stating that the government will now work closely with the healthcare sector to develop a detailed response to the report.

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