Addressing ACC blow-out

Employers will once again be rewarded for having low injury rates under proposed changes to ACC.

ACC Minister Nick Smith told South Island National Party faithful at a conference in Timaru at the weekend his first priority was to address governance issues with ACC which he said were responsible for a multimillion-dollar blow-out in its accounts.

Next, he would look at entitlement, which would see a return to rewarding employers who had safe workplaces with lower levies, part of a move that would return ACC to being an insurer rather than a welfare model.

Other areas of entitlement Dr Smith said would be reviewed included cover for self-inflicted injuries and medical misadventure.

Dr Smith said in an interview the previous government changed the definition of medical misadventure, which meant people who became sick as a result of being in hospital or after medical treatment could more easily be classified as being injured, for which they received ACC payments.

"Because of the generous way we deal with victims of accident compared to those inflicted with sickness, there was an incentive to push the sick into the accident area."

As a result, medical misadventure costs had trebled in the past five years, while self-inflicted injuries payments had also soared.

Dr Smith said free visits to physiotherapists had blown out from $9 million a year to $60 million, with a projected figure of over $100 million.

Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse was overseeing the restructuring of ACC, having worked for the corporation for five years and also in hospital administration.

Dr Smith, who is also Minister of Climate Change, said Australia and New Zealand looked like joining forces to address climate change, including creating a common market to exchange carbon credits.

He said both countries were working on a common policy which would be released later this year.

"We want to ensure that if investment was to be made in either New Zealand or Australia, it made economic sense and not the country which has the softest climate change policy."


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