The Privacy Commissioner recently conducted an investigation into the disclosure of personal information by a private health insurance company, HCF, to McKesson Asia Pacific, a third party involved in the health fund's Helping Hands program.
The personal information disclosed by HCF to McKesson included members' contact details, gender, age, broad type of medical illness and hospital admissions. Staff from McKesson would contact a patient, upon their release from hospital, to offer further medical care.
Allegations were made against HCF for disclosing personal information without each member's consent.
The Privacy Commissioner held that HCF did not breach the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).The Privacy Commissioner also held that McKesson had taken the appropriate steps to collect personal information in accordance with its contractual obligations to HCF.
There were a number of factors that supported this finding including:
HCF wrote to its members inviting them to participate in the program based on their claims history;
letters from HCF described the Helping Hands program’s purpose and background, including outlining McKesson’s role in the process;
participation in the program was entirely voluntary;
members were notified through HCF’s annual report and magazine that the private health fund intended to encourage member participation in similar pilot programs; and
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The Freedom of Information Amendment Bill 2007 (Bill) was introduced and had its first Reading Speech on 20 November 2007. FOI officers will need to be aware of the changes proposed by the Bill, and monitor its progress through Parliament.
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