Despite the strong focus on health care and health insurance over the course of the last year the Gillard government has managed to derail two of its biggest projects and has been met with staunch criticism as we approach elections. The first error is the alleged infringement of patents rights in respect of the government’s electronic health records system and the second is yet more criticism for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
An American software company is expected to wrap its investigation into alleged infringements of its patents up this week. The company alleged that federal and state government had infringed on its patients and other intellectual property that it offers under license. The claims were made in reference to the electronic health records systems that was developed the Gillard government. A third party manages the implementation of the system and has also been implicated in the infringement claims.
The patented method at the centre of the debate attributes an individual destination address to each consumer account when they receive communication from a health care provider. According to the company the destination address can be an email address or phone number. The patents also include the association of the access data with the consumer’s account to enable the consumer to use a secure website.
The communication incorporates a health record for each consumer. The consumer needs to have given permission for the data to be sent, stored and used on the website. The company says they have not filed an official complaint yet but it has said that its patents are available for licensing, inferring that an arrangement could be reached if financial responsibility for the matter was to be taken.
The organisation’s US patents have been valued at $1 billion USD by an independent advisory firm.
The government has come under more fire in light of its National Disability Scheme with new claims lodged that the scheme discriminates against people who are culturally diverse. A cultural lobby group has said that the five territories the government chose to launch in were traditionally Anglo Saxon in origin. The launch sites included New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the ACT.
It has been claimed that not launching the scheme in culturally mixed areas would mean people who are linguistically and culturally diverse will not have proper access to the scheme in its early days of operation and will be likely to miss out on benefits. It has also been alleged that the oversight will compromise the scheme’s implementation once it needs to be expanded beyond the initial launch sites.
A cultural lobby group says that the sites chosen for the launch result in a demographic that is born in Australia, is most likely to have two parents born in Australia, is likely to only speak English as a home language and is unlikely to speak two languages in the home. There are exceptions to the generalisation of course but international students and diplomats in the region would not be eligible for the National Disability Scheme in any event.
The error of the program not being implemented in more culturally diverse parts of the country, according to what critics say, will prevent its pilot projects from being implemented in realistic environments and will not provide a feasible idea of how it will work out in the real world, which was the primary purpose of the pilots.
The scheme has been met with much criticism and apprehension and one of the other areas it has not addressed is the issue of emigrants, raising further concerns. There will be adverse consequences for emigrants who do not have a permanent residence but who have a disability. The debate looks set to continue.