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Roy Speech More ACC And Labour Highway Robbery

Heather Roy Speech More ACC And Labour Highway Robbery

ACT Auckland Regional Conference; Saturday November 6, 2004;

Tucked away in the `Public Notices' section of the major daily newspapers on October 21 was an ACC advertisement advising the public of the ACC Board recommendations for levy increases for the 2005/06 financial year.

In short, the ACC Board is recommending that ACC Minister Ruth Dyson:

• Increase the cost of the annual vehicle licensing fee by $10

• Increase the petrol levy from 5.08 to 5.77 cents per litre

• Increase the self-employed levy by 3.9 percent

This would add around $36 million to ACC's motor vehicle account - one of seven ACC accounts that gather funding. Last year, the motor vehicle account reported a $221 million cash surplus - well ahead of the previous year's surplus of $80 million. Motorists might well ask why they must contribute even more to an already burgeoning account. Last year's surplus equates to taking $150 more than was needed from every average household.

The self-employed must be wondering why they bother. Many find it almost impossible to have a claim approved when they are injured, yet are expected to contribute more.

Our accident compensation scheme has been a huge failure for three decades - remember the 30^th Birthday celebrations earlier in the year, at a cost of $800,000 to the taxpayer?

The scheme has endured endless tinkering over the years, but this has failed to overcome its fundamental problems - statutory monopoly, and a lack of incentive to provide value for money. In short, ACC is inefficient, inflexible, wasteful and it compounds the problems confronting our already struggling health sector. Fraud is also an ongoing problem, and it is not uncommon for those truly in need to miss out completely.

ACC has caused a terrible rift in healthcare - pitting those who have had an accident or injury against those who have suffered an illness.

But there are lessons to be learned from ACC - 80 percent of all surgery paid for by the Accident Compensation Corporation is performed privately. This begs the question: if ACC can provide a better service, why can't our Public Health system?

I'm sure all of you would agree that it could happen tomorrow. But the present Government lacks the political will to allow it. They argue that healthcare is much too important to allow people to make their own choices.

As the Corporation doesn't consider itself to be a charity, it looks for the best deal: quality treatment, at the best price, in the best time. No one is surprised to hear that private hospitals win these contracts, and no-one - not even socialist recipients of treatment - complain about being seen privately. I'm told that even they like the fact that they are seen quickly, and seem to enjoy the hotel-style surroundings.

But this leaves 20 percent of ACC paid treatment to be provided by the public health system, and the public hospitals like having this work - they get paid to do it. Consequently, to fulfil contracts that compete with their other work, public hospitals allow ACC patients to jump the queue. Again, those who haven't an approved claim are disadvantaged.

Hawkes Bay DHB is a prime example. I have received a copy of a fax sent to those referring patients to Healthcare Hawkes Bay. It states:

"You will see below the estimated waiting times for each speciality depending on the priority of the patient"

The fax is sent by the Administrator of Elective services.

Top of the list are all ACC patients who are all considered to be urgent cases and will be seen in a two-four week timeframe. All other patients are divided into three categories - Urgent, Semi-Urgent or Routine. Orthopaedic patients are a reasonable comparison for the ACC patients, but look at the time difference: if you are an Urgent case you will wait six weeks to be seen, Semi-Urgent patients wait six months, and if you are considered to be a Routine case the wait you can expect is eight-12 months. The worst wait is for Ear, Nose and Throat problems - an Urgent wait is 10 months, Semi-Urgent 18 months and if you are considered to be a Routine case you will be seen "rarely".

ACC patients are given priority - and when one group is given priority, all others are automatically disadvantaged. The question my critics always ask is: "Well, what would ACT do?" The answers are simple.

Only choice and competition will ensure that premiums reflect value for money and allow innovative products to emerge. We would allow everyone to choose their own accident insurance cover.

Government should not force Kiwis to buy `one-size fits all' accident insurance against their will. ACT would allow people to buy cover against losses from accidents and sickness, and to buy lump sum protection.

Government should not impose monopoly, nor should it own insurance companies. ACT would remove the monopoly on existing schemes, and fully restore choice and competition.

The wholesale abolition of the right to sue was a mistake. ACT would review liability regimes - the issues of the right to sue, penalties under health and safety legislation and non-pecuniary damages.

ACT believes the role of Government should be limited to that of watchdog, and provider of a safety net for hardship cases. ACT believes Kiwis make the best choices for themselves, and that the Government should trust the people'.

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