Health Minister Nicola Roxon has referred the e-health Bill for the introduction of a universal identifying health number — the Healthcare Identifiers Bill — to a Senate Committee.
According to the minister's office, the Bill was introduced to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs to satisfy "ongoing community and stakeholder interest".
"Whenever there are high levels of community interest in [a] bill it's very common practice for a bill to be referred to the committee," Roxon's spokesperson Katie Hall told ZDNet.com.au.
The committee is expected to look into privacy safeguards in the Bill, which involves the issue of a unique 16-digit unique number to Medicare members, medical providers and healthcare organisations. The committee will also look at the operation of the services required to utilise the numbers, and the Bill's expected role in the national e-health agenda.
Written submissions regarding the proposed Bill from the public and stakeholders must be received by 5 March. The committee is scheduled to deliver its findings on the Bill on 15 March.
According to Hall, the Bill is set to be debated in parliament's next sitting, which starts 9 March, having been introduced on 10 February. It can, however, be passed through the House before the Senate committee reports.
"This legislation is an important part of the Rudd Government's reform agenda. Without healthcare identifiers there cannot be an integrated, consistent, e-health system in Australia," the office said.