Herald on ACC

A sensible editorial from the NZ Herald:

The careless language and loose accusations in ’s internal exchanges were probably the reason the minister took drastic action. It was an insight into a culture that has been been too hard on some categories of claim, especially those requiring surgery, as Herald investigations had found. Too many rejections of those claims have been reversed on appeal.

But it would be too easy to replace that culture with one at the other extreme. ACC cannot be an automatic entitlement with no questions asked. It is an unusual system, copied by no other country, in its uncritical attitude to the cause of injury. “No-fault” compensation may be a good way to save lawyers’ fees but the same unquestioning principle could not be applied to medical assessments. When ACC seeks a second opinion, though, its medical officers must not influence it as they clearly tried to do in the Pullar case.

ACC is funded by employers, motorists and taxpayers as insurance against sudden disability. It offers cover that ordinary commercial insurance provides elsewhere. Since New Zealand has to be competitive it is vital that ACC’s costs are not out of line with workplace insurance in other places. It has to ensure it is paying out only for genuine injuries and for loss of income only for as long as the claimant is genuinely unable to work.

Exactly. You don’t want ACC assuming all long-term claimants are rorting the system, but equally you don’t want ACC just paying out lifetime earnings to anyone who thinks they are eligible.

As a public insurer, ACC has to be rigorous.

But it should also be sensitive, fair, considerate and dignified in its dealings with people and its discussions about them.

That is as far as the culture change need go.

It is a tough balancing act, but that is it – to be rigorous and fair.

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