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No spine for Privatising ACC

3 July 2008 MEDIA STATEMENT

No spine for Privatising ACC

Labour candidate for Rangitikei, Jills Angus Burney, welcomes National’s honesty in finally acknowledging their intention to open the ACC’s levy management to private competition but rejects the need to destroy the scheme.

“The risk to the rural community is that competition will force up their contractor’s levy costs just like in Australia where shearing contractors pay about A$12 per hundred wages which is double what they pay here in New Zealand.”

Having worked in the private workers compensation market in 1999-2000 as a business development manager for the only NZ insurer FMG (Farmer’s Mutual Group), former shearer Ms Angus Burney says the ACC climate is now significantly different and only the Insurance Council and the National Party want the scheme broken up and privatised.

“In the 1990s ACC was deliberately run down by the then National government. It was a claimant and funder’s nightmare. For example National ran down the reserves that fund the long term claims by subsidising employer’s levies, and broke up the risk groups to advantage their mates in certain industries. Ironically employer's levies are in fact cheaper now than they were in 2000 when Labour re-nationalised the scheme.”

“My advocacy experience representing injured workers tells me private insurers have difficulty with the concept of genuine long term or complicated claims. These are claims by people like a worker in the Central North Island with a spinal injury hurt in a fork lift accident. That type of claim may go on for life. People cannot be risk managed like a car or house claim.”

“Serious and complicated injury claims have to be case managed much the same as any other serious injury would be – by medical professionals not insurance brokers. Advocates for workers find that third party administrators do not manage these claims effectively in the best interests of the claimant and that the only organization with the necessary specialist experience for such claims is the ACC.”

“It is disingenuous of Chris Ryan (Insurance Council) to suggest today that insurance companies can properly manage work injury medical claims. In the past year those of us working with claimants in the ACC area see a trend for Partnership Programme (self insured) employers handing back their claims management to ACC. They do so in frustration at their private case managers not doing a good job.”

“Last time, in the rush for new clients in the private market, there was also no proper measuring of the appropriate industry injury prevention programmes.”

“Why it is important not to open these accounts to competition (the National party euphemism for privatisation) is that ACC gets the best results for the scheme’s funders because ACC invests in injury prevention. Only this week we have a new Injury Prevention booklet for the shearing industry. Farmers themselves have benefited from tens of thousands of dollars in public funding by the Farmsafe programme training them to properly use four wheel drive motor bikes.”

Ms Angus Burney was invited to attend tomorrow’s Insurance Council meeting in Palmerston North but declined as she was unavailable as she is in Christchurch attending meetings with injured workers.

“Interestingly, when I was invited three weeks ago it was to put ‘Labour’s position on privatising ACC’. The irony is not lost on me that the organisers were well briefed on National’s intentions and seem to lack fundamental understanding of the lack of support for the National Party’s proposals, Ms Angus Burney said.

“It’s no surprise National and the Insurance Council have intended to keep this out of the public arena just as they did in 2005 and now they’re caught out by John Key’s mates at Merrill Lynch telling it how it is.”

ends


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