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ODT editorial and follow up opinion piece ACC a Social Contract 29.1.10

#1 User is offline   fairgo 

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 09:17 AM

The ODT printed an editorial following the front page article and Acclaim Otago responded to the editorial not expecting it to be published. However not only was it published it was given space on the opinion page rather than as a Letter to the Editor.

ACC a social contract

Fri, 29 Jan 2010

Denise Powell takes issue with an ODT editorial on medical assessments for long-term ACC claimants.

We were extremely disappointed to read the Otago Daily Times editorial (27.1.10) relating to the ACC's current approach to "minding the shop" as, in our view, it contained factual errors and misplaced beliefs about the scheme.

The original reason for the ACC scheme being introduced in 1972 was not "designed to cover workplace accidents of employed workers" as stated in the editorial, but rather a 24-hour no-fault social insurance scheme initiated by a 1967 report, which had been commissioned by the Government in response to the fiasco that was the then Workers' Compensation Act of 1956.

Effectively, this new legislation was a social contract between the public of New Zealand and the Government which promised in return for giving up the right to sue, the public was assured of comprehensive no-fault 24-hour accident compensation.

The Woodhouse Commission based its proposals on five principles: collective or community responsibility; comprehensive entitlement; complete rehabilitation; real compensation; and administrative efficiency.

ACC compensation was never a "benefit".

It was, and still is, an entitlement of a policy-holder (which all New Zealanders are) to earnings-related compensation, as well as rehabilitation and treatment under legislation for the duration of their incapacity.

Remembering, of course, that in order to continue to receive entitlements every ACC client is obliged to provide a medical certificate on a regular basis which outlines their current situation, thereby meaning that their entitlement is being frequently "reassessed".

There is no "free ride" as implied by the use of the word "sinecure" in the editorial.

As we have stated previously Acclaim Otago is certainly not saying that people should not be assessed.

We agree that assessments are necessary to ensure only those who are entitled to receive ACC support do so, but the excessive use of such continuous re-assessments, which seem to disregard previous assessments identifying people as having a permanent incapacity, is pointless and a waste of levy payers' funds.

In both the 1974 and 1982 Acts there was provision for a "permanent pension".

Once a person's injury had stabilised an assessment was made of their residual work capacity.

If there was deemed to be a permanent loss of work capacity then a permanent weekly compensation payment was made based on the percentage of that incapacity until the person reached retirement age.

We have long argued that this was a fairer system as it acknowledged that some people would never return to "full" work capacity but may have "partial" work capacity and their weekly compensation adjusted accordingly.

Under the original Woodhouse principles this meant that people received real compensation in acknowledgement of the permanent nature and impact of their injury on their work capacity.

It is our belief that a return to the original intent of the Woodhouse principles, including a permanent pension for those fully or partially incapacitated permanently by their injury, would effectively stop the continual re-assessments that we spoke of in the articles (ODT 26.1.10) which serve no useful purpose other than to line preferred assessors' pockets and place considerable and needless stress on injured people and their families.

Denise Powell is president of Acclaim Otago, an ACC claimant support group.

Minding the ACC shop

Wed, 27 Jan 2010

Over the almost four decades of its existence, the idea seems to have taken hold, particularly among some of its beneficiaries, that placement on an ACC earnings-related compensation scheme is a sinecure.

This is far from the original intention of the "benefit".

When the Accident Compensation Act came into existence in 1972, it was designed to cover workplace accidents of employed workers.

This evolved into a universal no-fault public insurance by which all accidents, including those incurred in motor vehicles, and regardless of how injury might have occurred, would be covered.

The principle of lump-sum payments for permanent disability was eventually established along with earnings-related benefits for accident victims during convalescence and rehabilitation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly costs began to rise and there have been various attempts to rein them in, notably by the National government in the early 1990s, efforts regarded to have been undone through the largesse of the Labour-led administrations that succeeded it.

With respect to weekly earnings-related compensation, there are now complaints of a return to "the bad old days" of medical assessments being used in attempts to remove claimants from the scheme.

In fact, medical assessments are a necessary component of a fair and workable scheme in which claimants are regularly assessed as to their eligibility to remain on it, rather than return to the ranks of the employed in some capacity or other.

Were these checks not to exist, nor to be carried out with some rigour, the entire system would be vulnerable to abuse and, not to put too fine a point on it, to fraud.

And that fraud is, of course, perpetrated upon the rest of the working population whose taxes support the ACC scheme.

Any organisation which is responsible for the allocation of public funds must also be accountable for the ways in which those monies are distributed and it is incumbent on ACC management to ensure, on behalf of the general populace, that its guidelines are adhered to, and that any potential for rorting the system is minimised.

There has been in the first year of Prime Minister John Key's National-led Government a degree of agitation and posturing around the exact state of ACC's books.

The Government, through ACC Minister Nick Smith, claimed the corporation was "financially unsustainable".

When ACC's annual report was tabled in October last year, it showed a loss of $4.8 billion following a $2.4 billion loss the year before.

Those figures may seem worse than they are in reality given the dramatic effect of the recession through 2008 and first half of 2009 on the corporation's assets - assets which can be expected to have recovered some of their value.

The use of them to justify potential inclusion of private insurance in the scheme, and to raise levies as the Government has now done, deserves ongoing scrutiny.

But none of this should diminish concern over the growth in future liabilities - from $9.4 billion to $23 billion over four years during the latter stages of the Labour-led government.

A significant part of this will be due to commitments to future earnings-related compensation.

It fully justifies any heightened urgency on the part of ACC's case managers required to validate their clients' continued qualification for the benefit.

It is largely irrelevant to the broader debate and if indeed there is perceived to be a more proactive stance on the part of the corporation in such matters, then this may simply speak of a complacency that had been allowed to creep into the system in previous years.

There are undoubtedly many people who genuinely qualify to remain on the earnings-related scheme, but there will be those, too, who faced with the choice of going back to work or receiving an inflation-adjusted weekly payment of 80% of a former wage, might simply prefer to go fishing.

That, unfortunately, all too often is human nature.

Those charged with minding the ACC shop are well within their rights to do their best to ensure it does not happen.

#2 User is offline   Huggy 

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 12:21 PM

Well done Denise, me thinks something else is going on behind the scenes ;)

#3 User is offline   Bill Birch 

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 12:37 PM

View Postfairgo, on Jan 29 2010, 11:17 AM, said:

It fully justifies any heightened urgency on the part of ACC's case managers required to validate their clients' continued qualification for the benefit.

That, unfortunately, all too often is human nature.

Those charged with minding the ACC shop are well within their rights to do their best to ensure it does not happen.

Assuming those "minding the ACC shop" are competent and apply the legislation correctly, as opposed to simply taking shortcut and not providing comprehensive rehabilitation to ensure a quick exit and declining rightful entitlements to secure a the financial reward that goes with falsely meeting their KPI - in other words, the ACC staff don't succumb to human nature - no that would never happen. B)

#4 User is offline   magnacarta 

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 01:21 PM

Fairgo, clearly and succinctly put - well done, knowledge is power.

And this raises another point.

Today it is announced that the deficit in the "Government's accounts" reduced because of the increase of $124 million from ACC's investments.

Which raises the issue that ACC funds are specifically collected and dedicated for ACC uses. The legislation provides that ACC can only invest money not immediately required for expenditure (for entitlements)

So, to take ACC's investment returns into the "Government accounts" seems improper which raises an issue as to whether that is lawful.

This is tantamount to some years ago Robert Muldoon seizing into the Government's consolidated accounts, the one-and-six-in-the-pound that everyone used to pay to provide for superannuation and also the government seizing the dedicated petrol taxes specifically raised for roading but put into the Government's consolidated accounts.

Is it any wonder that NZ is not seen as a fair and equitable nation based on the rule of law.

#5 User is offline   ruralkiwi 

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 04:11 PM

:rolleyes: Excellent article Denise. Congratulations on a job well done

#6 User is offline   Anti Bureaucratic 

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 05:45 PM

Thanks for all your efforts Denise. You are doing a wonderful job getting the message out's just a shame that the ODT isn't syndicated!

#7 User is offline   MadMac 

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Posted 30 January 2010 - 07:09 AM

:wub: Hi everyone ...

Well done Denise and everyone else at Acclaim Otago ...

I believe not only myself but many many others are a product of ACC's Failure of Service / Mis-management due to failings of ACC administration efficencies.

The way I see it is real simple if the basic details aren't correct at the beginning ...

How can ACC Cover be established ?

How can ACC Entitlements be established ?

Whats the point in having ACC Claim File(s) with details that never happened to me ?

:( I believe it is totally wrong to have basic details incorrect , false , misleading and then attempt to manage it with administration efficencies ... but further wrong doings ( Gaslighting ) by trying to get you to believe the details are correct for the event.


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