31 July 2019 – Correction – Online compliance

Reporting linking Centrelink-Medicare data matching with online compliance is inaccurate and only serves to confuse two very separate programs administered by the Department of Human Services.

It also wrongly refers to online compliance reassessments as ‘incorrect debt notices’.

Centrelink-Medicare data matching

The online compliance program is a payment review process to identify discrepancies between income reported to Centrelink and the ATO.

The Medicare data matching is a fraud investigation tool that is not related to online compliance in any way.

The purpose of Centrelink-Medicare data matching is to protect customer identity, and highlight identities that have been potentially exploited, so the department can take action to protect and assist its customers.   

Where a risk is identified, expert human intelligence analysis will determine if further investigation is required. 

Where it is identified that a customer may have been subjected to identity theft or exploitation the department will conduct further enquiries to ensure the customer’s wellbeing.

These data sharing arrangements provide further assurances that only persons entitled to receive payments and benefits do so, and that individuals’ right to privacy is protected.

Centrelink-Medicare data matching is a long-standing practice, and allowing the two systems to ‘talk’ to each other matches with community expectations.

This data matching does not involve the use of any individual’s personal health information.

Investigations are done in accordance with our usual investigations protocols and the relevant legislation.

The misuse of identity information for fraud and criminal purposes causes substantial harm to the economy and individuals each year.

Online compliance reassessments

Letters initiated at the commencement of a compliance review are not debt letters.  The letter asks the customer to engage online or call the department to work through a discrepancy. No debt notice is issued until the customer has had the opportunity to assist with resolving the discrepancy.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman examined the number of instances where no debts were raised following contact with a customer (approximately 20 per cent). The Ombudsman made clear that this was not an ‘error’ rate.

Rather, the Ombudsman found that this figure related to the number of customers who received a letter asking them to contact DHS about a discrepancy and who, after providing an explanation, did not have a debt.

The Ombudsman’s view was that it is entirely reasonable and appropriate for DHS to ask customers to explain discrepancies following its data matching activities as a means of safeguarding welfare payment integrity. 

The Ombudsman also noted that allowing customers to provide information at any stage of their review, means it is likely there will always be some debts reduced after a person contacts, and this reflects a reassessment process functioning as it should.

The Ombudsman found the system of debt calculations being used is comprehensive and accurately captures the policy requirements.

Customers can provide us with new information at any point in the checking process.