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Howard’s End: ACC Examination Back To 1991 Needed


Howard’s End: ACC Ought To Be Examined Back To 1991

Public disquiet and media interest over problems in ACC has caused National's spokesperson, Dr Paul Hutchison, to join NZ First Peter Brown in calling for a public inquiry into ACC's practices. If the politicians are genuine then we should not see an inquiry focusing only on the behaviour of individuals but, rather, it will look at the start of today's ACC problems which date back to around 1991. Maree Howard writes.

National's ACC spokesperson, Dr Paul Hutchison, has written to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select-Committee asking it to hold an inquiry into:

1. the professional and ethical issues between case managers and medical professionals;

2. the financial rewards case managers receive for "exiting" claimants;

3. inappropriate language use for claimants such as "stock and "exiting";

4. too much focus on saving money rather than rehabilitation and prevention;

5. the independence of the ACC wholly-owned company Dispute Resolution Services Ltd who review ACC decisions;

6. claims that Catalyst Ltd (another wholly-owned ACC company) is keeping to its target to exit claimants rather than ensuring they are optimally cared for;

7. the need for best practice guidelines and a consistent set of principles at all levels.

These points are important, but the real problems with ACC started around 1991 when what has been called "the quick and dirty" policy review of ACC took place following Nationals' 1990 election.

This review, I have to say, was instigated by the business lobby groups which led to the 1992 ACC Act, the WCAP amendments in 1996, the great fibromyalgia scam in 1998/99 which led to the unjustified and disgraceful crackdown on back, shoulder, arm, wrist and hand injuries and increased fraud investigations which were based on the "dob in a neighbour principle."

In other words the rumour, innuendo and hearsay promoted by Nazi Germany against the Jews, political dissidents, homosexuals and any one else the Nazi's could think of. There are striking similarities in New Zealand today with 1933 Nazi Germany.

The people who suffered most from the ACC crackdown were good honest hard-working ordinary New Zealanders. Not the office-types, but the blokes who manually build the country - you know, the Labour Party and Union constituency who generaly remain silent about what is happening to "their" people.

Martha McClusky, an American law professor, wrote a great article in the Rutgers Law Review in 1998, in which she said Western governments were cutting back on welfare entitlements under pressure from big business.

Big business was both brazen and blatant - they said, if we have to pay to compensate injured workers in your country, we'll shut up shop and move to the third world. McClusky gets into this in some detail and singles out the use of hired gun doctor's and other 'experts' by insurerers/employers as a particularly egregious example of the process.

This is what happened in New Zealand in 1991 following the "quick and dirty" policy review of ACC.

It's arguably gotten worse under Labour because the ACC now invests hundreds of millions of your dollars in big business and in government equities while injured New Zealanders are going without. So even the government has got in on the act.

In my view, it 's a scam of monumental proportions!

I'm simply astounded that a Labour Party ACC Minister would sign an agreement with ACC to dump 1500 injured long-term claimants this year even though the legislation says that any agreement must be about the quality and quantity of services to be purchased or provided.

How on earth can it be logical, rational, or lawful, for a Minister to sign an agreement with ACC which, rather than provide services to a specific class of injured New Zealander, deliberately sets out to dump 1500 of them?

I spoke to WINZ the other day - by the way their has been a dramatic improvement in that organisation who now seem to be very user-friendly - and when I mentioned ACC I was told by a WINZ staffer: "aren't they (ACC) horrible people."

I certainly agreed but it's not being driven from the bottom in ACC it's coming from the top. That's where the inquiry needs to start and put the fire to the feet of the ACC head-hocho's as far back as 1991.

Current ACC CEO Garry Wilson, who raised his Anglican religion and his work at the City Mission in a recent Sunday Star-Times article, said in a recent letter to the editor of the Dominion-Post that he had a high level of confidence that claimants were being rehabilitated .

Well, Mr Wilson, you have not replied to my inquiry earlier this week which asked you to respond to my request that you personally visit claimants who disagree with you.

And let's not forget the article written by him in The Independent newspaper in 1997 under the headline "Improving ACC involves all New Zealanders".

He wrote: "There are always new ideas for improving services and reducing costs. I will be a strong supporter of any proposal, including competition, that can demonstrably deliver those benefits to all New Zealanders."

And now Mr Wilson works under a Labour Government ACC Minister - you remember, the one with the "social heart"

As one claimant recently put it to Scoop: "Perhaps Mr Wilson should change his church to Catholic. At least they have confession."

Will there be a select-committee inquiry into ACC? What do you think?


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