People with chronic health conditions cost the accident
compensation system 59 per cent more than healthy people
without those conditions, researchers have found.
Although only a minority of people suffer from any of the
conditions, their non-accident-related conditions account for
10.7 per cent of total accident compensation costs, or $276
million a year.
The findings, obtained by Accident Compensation Corporation
clients Bruce Van Essen and Bronwyn Pullar under the Official
Information Act, raise fears that ACC may try to avoid paying
for costs that are arguably due to chronic health conditions.
"I can't understand why you would go to all that trouble to
collect data and not use it," said Ms Pullar, who blew the
whistle on ACC's poor privacy processes after she was sent
almost 7000 ACC files about other people by accident in 2012.
A Wellington legal specialist on ACC cases, John Miller, said
ACC was already increasingly refusing to accept compensation
claims by pointing to "degeneration" that existed before an
accident, often due to aging.
"It's going to continue and probably get worse and ACC is
looking at shifting some of those costs on to the health
sector," he said.
The findings come from a series of reports dating back to
The first 2009 report by CBG Health Research, headed by
Internet Party leader Laila Harre's husband Dr Barry Gribben,
found that people with any of six chronic health conditions
had nearly twice as many ACC-funded health consultations as
people without any of those conditions.
A 2010 internal ACC report found that diabetes and coronary
heart disease alone increased ACC costs by $100 million a
A final 2012 report, again by CBG Health Research, calculated
the costs of nine common health conditions which between them
affect 40 per cent of New Zealanders. It found increased ACC
costs ranging from 3 per cent for people with asthma to 84
per cent for people with mental health conditions, with an
average excess across all nine conditions of 59 per cent.
All the studies found that the increased costs were due to
people with chronic health conditions both having more
accidents and taking longer to recover from them and get back
The reasons were often complicated. For example, people with
chronic health conditions were more likely to become
unemployed, which increased their chances of developing
mental health and/or alcohol and drug problems, which in turn
affected their accident and recovery rates.
Most of the health conditions also became more common with
age. CBG calculated that our aging population would increase
the share of ACC costs due to chronic health conditions from
10.7 per cent to 12.7 per cent by 2025.
An ACC spokeswoman said better understanding of the effects
of chronic health conditions would "allow for better
rehabilitation outcomes for clients" as well as possible
"policy measures to address the additional cost burden to
Mr Miller said the research showed the need for a "holistic"
approach to address people's chronic conditions at the same
time as their accident-related injuries. He said ACC was
best-placed to coordinate such an approach because it
assigned everyone a personal case manager.
By Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald