The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has intensified pressure on the federal government and the Department of Defence to launch an official probe into the troubled Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) outsourcing contract.
The call for a full official audit of the deal follows the revelation by Defence that a key optometry deal, previously estimated to be worth around $33 million, was terminated over the unauthorised offshoring of personal information of defence personnel by MHS provider Luxottica Retail Australia Ltd.
The data breach scandal surfaced last week after MHS told Defence that Luxottica transferred optical claims information overseas for processing in contravention of its contract with the military, forcing MHS to contact all potentially affected staff and apologise to them.
“The latest incident with optometry services just shows that the problems are not going away. An audit is needed urgently,” said AMA President, Associate Professor Brian Owler.
“The [MHS] contract has been dogged by problems, particularly in terms of access to off-base medical services.”
Government departments are effectively prohibited from offshoring personal details they hold on either their staff or clients under strict policies surrounding data security and sovereignty.
However the combination of sensitivities surrounding health and military personnel data have compounded issue into what is shaping-up to be one of the most serious offshore data breaches yet to hit the government.
“Both the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, and I are treating this issue very seriously,” Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral (VADM) Ray Griggs, said in a statement on the incident.
However the AMA says that there have been ongoing issues with MHS it wants resolved.
“Many medical specialists have not signed up to the MHS arrangements due to unilateral fee cuts, new contract provisions, and the potential for MHS to interfere with the doctor/patient relationship, A/Prof Owler said.
“There has been the loss of choice of specialists and we know there are problems in accessing contracted specialists, particularly in areas where major bases are located including Darwin, Townsville, the South Coast and Canberra.”
The AMA chief said that one result of the problems was that non-contracted specialists were being used and ADF personnel “transported elsewhere to access care – even when it might be available locally.”
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