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Nats order ACC to cut claimants

Written By: - Date published: 8:25 am, June 25th, 2012 - 54 comments
Categories: ACC, privatisation - Tags:

There is a sociopathic policy of the leadership at ACC, which sees staff financially incentivised to push long-term claimants off ACC leading to many of them going on the benefit rather than getting rehabilitation. Now, we have proof that this policy came right from the top. National ministers set arbitrary targets for the number of long-term claimants to be booted.

The financial incentives worked even better than expected with the ‘quotas’ being exceeded by hundreds.

It’s clear that this is all part of National’s privatisation agenda. General manager of claims management Denise Cosgrove described this policy to a conference of Australian private insurance providers in the language of a private insurer:

“an absolute strategy … and we’re not reporting it as a public measure yet”. Its focus was now on high-cost claims because the “actuarial release”

“Actuarial release” means that, in the fully-funded model where an insurer has to have reserves adequate to cover the future costs of all its existing claims, the insurer doesn’t have to have such large reserves (it can ‘release’ them) because its got the claimants off its books.

That’s obviously attractive in a privatisation agenda because, by getting rid of the people who have the most serious and long-term injuries that will have the largest future costs, ACC can reduce the amount of reserves it needs to hold, which means it can achieve full-funding at an earlier.

Once fully-funded, ACC is in the same financial situation as a private insurer is required to be and, so, ready for privatisation.

If, heaven forbid, National gets a third term, ACC will be one of the last big government operations that has the potential to become a large source of private profit. You can bet the Nats would sell it – and that’s why they’re denying coverage to New Zealanders with costly injuries.

54 comments on “Nats order ACC to cut claimants ”

  1. Carol 1

    And while the article says this:

    ACC had not yet signed an agreement with current ACC Minister Judith Collins, which would give her an opportunity to show her stated intent to “drive a culture change in ACC to restore public trust and confidence” in it.

    I’m not convinced. When I’ve seen/heard Collins talk about culture change in ACC, she immediately follows that by saying people are better off working.


    Cabinet minister Judith Collins has admitted that ACC staff get higher pay for kicking long-term claimants off the ACC’s books but defends the strategy as “a good thing” because it gets the clients back to work.
    She said measures that helped ACC encourage people back into work where appropriate were “a good thing”.

    “I don’t see any problem with that, but where I do see a problem is if anyone’s being forced off ACC when they’re simply not able to work, and I think that’s a different thing all together,” Ms Collins said.

    Her comments don’t reassure me.

    The message I got from ACC when I first came out of hospital, was couched in language that sounded like it was in my interests, but, actually just seemed like a pressure to be working as soon as.

    In phone interview and a letter from ACC, there was a line, apropos of nothing, saying that people are better (in health & well-being) when they are working. My immediate thought was, “Yeah right! It’s not about what’s best for me, it’s all about them money.” This was when I had just come out of hospital after a serious shock to my body, and was feeling weak, somewhat disabled, and not up to work at all.

    And the general attitude amongst the managers (as well as the rank-and-file) where I work is that ACC makes people go back to work before they are ready.

    Rabbiting on about it being better for people to be working just sounds like more of the same , callous, NAct dis-entitlement culture, and won’t do much to restore confidence in ACC.

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      “saying that people are better (in health & well-being) when they are working”

      My brother-in-law, who is a psychologist and deals with ACC claims (including people faking psychological problems they don’t have) says that this is true. People who are working do generally have better health and well-being than those who aren’t.

      The problem is that ACC are applying this as a blanket rule without due consideration of the individual involved or their specific needs.

      • Carol 1.1.1

        Undoubtedly people generally are better off if they are working, but not if they are not up to doing the job.

        I’ve never been a shirker, have rarely taken sick leave, but when I came out of hospital I was just not up to it. It was not helpful to my well-being to have the pressure about getting back to work as soon as…. When I was ready, I asked to go back to work, but, even, then, I think my manager thought it was too soon.

        And it must be far worse for people with far more debilitating injuries than mine and/or who work in quite physical jobs.

        • Lanthanide

          As usual, these sorts of things come down to what is measurable. It’s very easy to work out much someone staying out of work is costing ACC. It is very difficult (if not impossible) to work out how much it ‘costs’ someone to return to work prematurely, not only because those costs can’t be measured in monetary amounts: stress, health of the person, the impact of their employment on their employer, etc.

          So our terribly wise culture simply measures the things it can measure easily and tends to down-play or ignore the other factors.

          • Puddleglum

            There’s a lot in that point, Lanthanide.

            Despite what its more radical proponents might claim, quantification is not a very good way of grasping reality – quite the opposite. It is primarily a means of reducing your relationship to the measured object to attributes that relate not to a comprehensive account of reality but to your own goals in relation to the object.

            If I measure a piece of wood I am, in effect, reducing the piece of wood (in all its multifaceted properties) to ‘length’ and, therefore, to the uses to which something of that length might be put (similarly with ‘hardness’, flexibility or anything else I might care to measure). 

            In the same way, if I measure some attribute of a person that measurement process says much more about my purposes in relation to the person than it does about the person. 

            By (my) definition, quantification and measurement have their uses but, too often, they are used as a cover for claiming ‘disinterest’ and objectivity when the reality is that the process of measurement is highly ‘interested’. 

      • Vicky32 1.1.2

        People who are working do generally have better health and well-being than those who aren’t.

        No kidding! I know that, any unemployed person knows that – that’s why I have applied for (to judge by my ‘job seekers diary’, more than 1000 jobs since 2009. But are the jobs there? Are they heck as like!
        Unlike Carol, I haven’t got any injury or disability – but I can’t find a job!
        (Sadly, I’ve just learned today that my younger sister probably has Freidreich’s Ataxia (ask Dr Google!) and she’s going to be in for a world of hurt, as ACC/WINZ try to prove that she’s only pretending to not be able to walk, and make her go back to bar work (and as her daughter has just got a caring-for benefit as her carer, they’ll try to make R., job seek.. My sister is only just 53… 🙁 )

        • Lanthanide

          Faking generally applies to people who claim to have suffered an accident or injury, or who may have suffered from one in the past but are faking the extent of their rehabilitation. Or people faking psychological disorders that can be proven to be fake with the appropriate testing.

          A genetic disease is pretty easy to prove: just do a DNA analysis.

  2. If ACC is doing it’s job properly a key aim should be to get claimants off their books. Especially long term claimants.

    Incentives for staff to do this shouldn’t be a problem it’s being done with the best intent (and rehabilitation). Of course there are valid questions being asked if ACC are doing a reasonable and fair job.

    There will always be ecxeptions and there will always be some people unhappy with the treatment ACC gives them, so it’s a matter of overally effectiveness and fairness rather than focussing on individual cases.

    You can bet the Nats would sell it – that’s why they’re denying coverage to New Zealanders with costly injuries.

    Is that just an opinion, or is it based on any facts? I didn’t think politicians were usually in any way involved in clinical decisions.

    • Petey you are in troll mode.

      The claimants were already assessed and their entitlement had to be justified.

      Then the Government decided that this was not good enough and that  1,150 of these people who had already been assessed as eligible and had to be culled.  And then we had this appalling abuse of process outlined by Bronwyn Pullar whereby tame “independent” assessors in cohorts with ACC officers culled people off the list.

      Now we have Petey the brave with his head firmly placed in the sand and his eyes sealed shut suggesting there are no facts justifying what is being claimed.

      Take the red pill Petey.  You will not be the same.

    • Lanthanide 2.2

      Broadly I agree with you, it is likely there are/were people who genuinely should have been removed from the ACC system.

      My brother-in-law says this is called “malingering”, where people purposefully obstruct rehabilitation because it’s easier to sit at home ‘injured’ being paid 80% of your former salary than it is to go out and get a new job that may not be what you’re used to doing and in most cases won’t pay nearly as well.

      I have concerns that it appears the minister / heads of ACC simply came up with a goal in a top-down approach, rather than taking a bottom-up approach that actually identified specific cases that needed to be dealt to.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 2.2.1

        “Needed to be dealt to”

        Yes, because the right to sue would never result in a huge payout which would allow anyone to live off the interest for life without the government telling them how to live it. No, wait…

        • Lanthanide

          For some individuals, it might. But I believe that the ACC system is better for most than the alternative you are suggesting.

          • Kotahi Tane Huna

            I believe the ACC system as originally designed was better, but that it is slowly being gutted, that slowly the requirement to treat people is being replaced by the language of bene bashing. People with long-term rehabilitation requirements are the new bludgers, apparently.

        • higherstandard

          Well of course it would, but it would also result in a very large proportion of those currently receiving ACC to receive nothing.

          The ACC system as originally deigned was very good what I see as one of the major problems is that ACC has grown out of all proportion to its creator intentions.

          • Kotahi Tane Huna

            It’s not like ACC has insufficient funds to meet its duties.

            Can you cite some examples?

            • higherstandard

              Examples of what ?

              • Kotahi Tane Huna

                Examples of the ACC growing out of all proportion to what was originally designed.

                The changes that were made in 1992, for example, had the effect of removing previous entitlements, so what has “grown out of all proportion”?

                • higherstandard

                  OK well for a start I’ll think you’ll find it was being looked at within the Woodhouse report which you quote as an employment related no faults insurance scheme.

                  If you’ve ever been down to a clinic on a saturday or Sunday you’ll find them overflowing with kids who’ve turned an ankle or the like – these are all captured under the medical bureaucracy we have to suffer as ACC claims and have over the years created a great industry for medical and governmental bureaucrats and allied health professionals.

                  • Kotahi Tane Huna

                    Riiight, so no actual figures to support your opinion then.

                    The personal anecdote you describe sounds like ACC doing precisely what it was intended to do – cover all injuries under a “no fault” compensation system, while promoting injury avoidance and prevention.

                    As you may know, I’m not fond of the notion that policy should be determined by unsupported anecdotes, especially when it comes to a system that is hated by right-whingers and admired by the rest of the world.

                    • higherstandard

                      Have look at a brief history of ACC here


                      As I stated it was designed primarily as a non-faults insurance scheme in relation to employment originally and has morphed into a catch all scheme which has seen some extreme growth in certain areas such as physiotherapy.


                      It’s no secret that this has occurred – ACC is an excellent scheme but it has been abused over the years both by the users and providers.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      “…As I stated it was designed primarily as a non-faults insurance scheme in relation to employment originally…”

                      Yes, I know that’s what you believe, but the article you quote says nothing of the sort:

                      The report recommended a scheme that covered:

                      all injuries to earners whether occurring at work or not, funded by a flat-rate levy on employers for the cost of all injuries to their employees. A levy on the self-employed to pay for injuries occurring at work or outside of work was also proposed
                      all motor vehicle injuries, funded by a levy on owners of motor vehicles and drivers.

                      What part of “all injuries to earners whether occurring at work or not” are you having trouble with?

                      Insurance companies do not operate on a “no-fault” principle; your analogy fails.

                    • higherstandard

                      “If you’ve ever been down to a clinic on a saturday or Sunday you’ll find them overflowing with kids who’ve turned an ankle or the like – these are all captured under the medical bureaucracy we have to suffer as ACC claims and have over the years created a great industry for medical and governmental bureaucrats and allied health professionals.”

                      kids……… earners ……. see the difference ?

                      I note you have ignored the physio article as well which was an easily found example of wastage in the system.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      The second article is an example of the system being improved to eliminate wastage, hardly abnormal behaviour, but again, not evidence that wastage is a significant problem. I return you to the point already made; that ACC is well able to fund its own liabilities.

                      The “kids” are being paid 80% of their previous wages are they? Can you see the difference?

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Remember – you have claimed that ACC has “grown out of all proportions” – if you wanted to convince me you could try using the figures for it’s turn-over since the start of the scheme, for example. Has it “grown out of all proportion” as a percentage of GDP, say?

                      Or by comparison to other systems? The USA for example?

                      Of course it hasn’t. You’re just repeating fact-free dogma.

        • David C

          Who are you going to sue when you have wrecked your knee playing rugby?

          • Kotahi Tane Huna

            Give the man a prize!

            You’ve correctly identified one of the reasons ACC was established in the first place: so that all injuries can be covered rather than the lottery that existed previously.

            cf: The Woodhouse Report, 1967.

          • tracey

            it also catesrs for those who wouldnt be able to afford insurance premiums. So its about removing right to sue in return for wage direct deductions instead of premiums. Acc is not broken so stop perpetuating the idea it is. Its a social contract not a profit centred businness model and it works and pays its way

            • Vicky32

              Acc is not broken so stop perpetuating the idea it is. Its a social contract not a profit centred businness model and it works and pays its way

              Absolutely right, Tracey!

      • tracey 2.2.2

        i agree with your last sentence. Has anyone here actually tried to appeal an acc case? I have appealled dbh refusals under the oia and in one case its been on the ombudsmen desk for two years. Bureaucrats know how to slow people down in the system.

        I recall when ruth dyson decided all invalid beneficiaries had to be reviewed to see if they could work. My mother in law worried for months abot her cerebal palsy son being reclassified. Apparently some politicians know of a cure for cp.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 2.3

      “I didn’t think politicians were usually in any way involved in clinical decisions.”

      Then you need to start thinking, Pete. Setting arbitrary targets for people to be taken off the books is political involvement in clinical decisions. Full stop.

      Not to mention that you seem to be ignoring ACC’s raison d’etre. The right to sue and all that…

      • Carol 2.3.1

        “I didn’t think politicians were usually in any way involved in clinical decisions.

        Hah! Unless you happen to be a political candidate and also a clinical assessor…. as mine was/is…. checked the name online… was a candidate in last year’s election (and not a NAct one). Although, I guess if this person had got elected they would have given up their ACC day job.

    • KJT 2.4

      So. WINZ and ACC getting much more arbitrary and unfair whenever National gets in is just my imagination. Not the experience of ALL the teenagers I know.

      • Treetop 2.4.1

        Under National’s first term after the 1990 election they abolished the 1992 & 1998 Acts for lump sum compensation and introduced work capacity assessments.

        Under Labour’s first term after the 1999 election lump sum compensation was reintroduced for injuries occurring after 1 April 2002 but not to the same extent as the 1972 & 1982 Acts.

        1992 – 2002 there are no lump sum payments, probably people only got the independence allowance.

        When it comes to Work and Income being the recepient of people being booted off ACC the shit is going to hit the fan. In July 2013 there will be new legislation covering sickness and invalid benefit review and the current legislation will be repealed or have amendments.

        I predict that there is going to be an increase of review for sickness and invalid benefit and that your GP may lose the right to do a medical for invalid benefit (Work and Income already use designated doctors and have the power to check all GP medicals for sickness and invalid benefit).

        The current review process for sickness and invalid benefit is:

        Social security Act 1964
        2 Section 53A. Right of appeal on medical grounds
        (b) any claim for an invalids benefit is declined on medical grounds or any such benefit is cancelled on medical grounds; or

        (ba) any claim for sickness benefit is declined on medical grounds or on grounds relating to a person’s capacity for work, or a person’s sickness benefit is cancelled on medical grounds relating to the person’s capacity to work.

        With both ACC and Work and Income it has got to the stage where GP’s medicals are not being honoured by ACC or work and Income. ACC and Work and Income have employed too many gravy train medical assessors to do a witch hunt on their clients.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.5

      Is that just an opinion, or is it based on any facts?

      It’s based on the fact that this government is selling off as many assets as possibly can ram through.

    • jack 2.6

      I don’t think you can be so nieve Pete. I still remember on the John Campbell show when he interviewed a gentleman with a paralysis problem as a result of an accident. His doctor said he could not work and he had worked all his life. If he wasn’t acting, I can sure as hell tell you he couldn’t work. But ACC sent him a letter to get him back to work. It’s pretty obvious something in the background was smelling pretty bad. Now we all know what it is…GREED.

    • Murray Olsen 2.7

      Pete George, go back to posting on WhaleSpew’s vile blog if you’re just here to support asset sales. Of course politicians are involved in clinical decisions, and in the most cowardly way, if they insist that the numbers have to be cut. Their demands make bad clinical decisions necessary in the first place.

  3. Glg 3

    Is this a full-time job for you Peter George? Defending the Nats I mean.

  4. just saying 4

    It’s worth mentioning that people with partners in work seldom qualify for WINZ support. Others dont qualify because have significant assets or some other form of income. The true numbers of injured people who are disentitled, but are unable to work is hidden by this statistic. The number of dumped long -term claimants who have been genuinely rehabilitated and are actually able to return to their previous occupation for thirty hours a week, or to something similar is perishingly small.

    The Greens asked a question in Parliament last week to the effect of ‘how many claimants had their injury diagnoses changed in the last year’? What was interesting was the answer – about 85,000 from memory (and I don’t have time now to go get the link, shouldn’t be writing this). Any hoo, I’m hoping the GP join the dots between this question, and ACC’s tactic of having injuries reassessed as a pre-existing condition, by hand-picked “company” doctors.

    Of course the pre-existing strategy also serves to prevent many thousands of legitimate claims being accepted in the first place. And the corporation knows full well that most people in this situation wouldn’t even consider challenging the decision by legal processes.

    That profit Collins and the Nats crow about, the financial miracle that ‘turned the corporation around’ has been extracted from the injured in their hours of need.

  5. BillODrees 5

    Noisy scandals, Pullar, Privacy, who said what when, etc and blah blah are distractions.  The ACC became under attach when Nick Smith appointed the new Board after National won the 2008 election.


    The ACC is a Treasure! A Taonga. Some idiots from National are dicking around with it.  The Nats want to sell it or wreck it. Labour should be very very carful not to undermine the unique value proposition of a properly funded ACC.  Other countries are copying the historic Labour model.  Hague and the Greens have no maturity of policy development in this space. Andrew Little needs to very clear on what Labour policy is in this area. 

  6. The Plan 6

    Who needs alien conspiracy theories when you Tories actually conspiring against us.

  7. Carol 7

    Ah, what was that about pushing long term ACC onto WINZ?

    *sigh* And,yet again, the government is targeting bennies – this time those on unemployment benefit.
    So, like the policy to cut the number of long term ACC claimants, Key & Bennett are aiming to push the long term unemployed off benefits. Nevertheless, the main aim isn’t to provide more jobs that are suitable and pay a living wage, just pull the life-support system out from under those who can’t get jobs, for whatever reason. The focus is on getting people “looking for work”.


    The goal of reducing the number of working age people receiving a benefit for more than 12 months by 30 per cent, would see the number of jobseekers drop from 78,000 to 55,000 by 2017.

    Currently 12 per cent of New Zealand’s working age population is on a main benefit and more than 230,000 children live in benefit-dependent homes.

    The annual cost of working age benefit payments is more than $8 billion.

    They also want to reduce assaults on children and reduce crime rates, and to reduce costs of businesses dealing with government.

    And crime and dysfunctional behaviour has nothing to do with poverty (either due to unemployment or low wages), and being excluded from the economy when people who need them are refused benefits?

    And these provisions have nothing to do with making employers more responsible and safe in their practices, while providing a living wage.

    • Treetop 7.1

      This is why NZ Superannuation has to be addressed NOW so that the unemployed have a reasonable chance of getting a job.

      I know that the NZ Super is not enough to live on for some people, so they need to be allowed to earn a capped amount.

    • Vicky32 7.2

      The focus is on getting people “looking for work”.

      Because Murray and Noelene Everyman assume that we are not already ‘looking for work’. I am reminded of a letter to the Herald a few weeks ago, from some man in Remmers, banging on about raising the age of Super… who said something weird (in terms of what he had been saying) to the effect that “What will we do about beneficiaries, and their claims to want to retire earlier, as they’ve never worked a day in their lives!”
      I wished unemployment on him, with extreme prejudice – but to judge by what he said and his address, I’d also have to wish for his house to fall down and for his investments to all go pear-shaped! I wish my wishes had effect! 😀

      • tracey 7.2.1

        there is a smug self righteousness about work by some who cannot place themselves for a moment in someone elses shoes. of course it never occurs to them that most beneficiaries have paid taxes from the time they did work.

  8. tracey 8

    Interesting that the govts goal is to reduce the number on benefits by 30% not to create 25,000 jobs. A subtle difference to some but a significant difference imo.

    Herald the return of “aspirational”. Its been gone for a few years but it looks like its back. Translation tell the public a whole lot of things they want to hear to sound like you are cracking down when you know you have no actual plan to bring it about… And focus on the old chestnuts so full of misinformation, welfare and crime. Sigh.

  9. xtasy 9

    Having just an hour ago listened to the news on National Radio, some new “arbitrary targets” have just been announced by the government. One of these is TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF BENEFICIARIES BY 30 PER CENT!

    I did not hear whether there was a time frame mentioned, but that is apparently, besides some other new “arbitrary targets” now what NatACT have set themselves as a new GOAL (hopefully an OWN GOAL)!

  10. Phil 10

    For those of you arguing about the “origins” of ACC;
    “Blood on the Coal” by Hazel Armstrong.
    As one of the many thousands who rode to Wellington to protest the ACC hikes on motorcycle regos a few years back, I have to remind you of our slogan, “Who’s Next?”.
    Many of those thousands became politically aware during the ACC motorcycle protests, and Blood on the Coal was a fine introduction to the bigger issues.
    But then, we were just a bunch of loud mouth bikers eh?

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