NSW Law Society: cost for injured workers shifted to Centrelink & Medicare

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According to the NSW Law Society, Injured workers in NSW have given up the fight for compensation and are instead relying on Medicare and Centrelink for assistance.

Costs for injured workers being shifted to Centrelink and Medicare warns NSW Law Society

annapatty2By Anna Patty | December 15, 2014 | Brisbane Times

john-barilaro-articleSmall Business Minister John Barilaro (pictured on right) said the workers compensation reforms have unshackled employers from “unnecessary regulatory burdens”.

Injured workers have given up the fight for compensation and are instead relying on Medicare and Centrelink for assistance, the NSW Law Society warns.

The NSW government has trumpeted a 15% reduction in workers’ compensation claims by small businesses and a 17.5 % reduction in insurance premiums.

Small Business Minister John Barilaro said the state government reforms to the workers’ compensation scheme had unshackled employers from “unnecessary regulatory burdens”.

But Law Society president Ros Everett said the costs associated with injured workers had been transferred from the NSW government to Australian taxpayers, who pay for health and social security services through Medicare and Centrelink.

She said the reduction in workers’ compensation claims was a direct result of the state government’s decision in 2012 to cut benefits and legal rights to injured workers.

“People can’t enforce what little rights they have under the new system,” she said. “

It is all so difficult they have given up.

“It doesn’t mean they haven’t been injured. It just means it is tougher for people to receive compensation.”

Ms Everett said the NSW government had made it difficult for injured workers to obtain any legal advice on workers’ compensation claims.

Lawyers are no longer allowed to charge clients for help in appealing an unfair assessment of their ability to return to work. Injured workers are required to negotiate the system on their own.

“It’s a highly technical and difficult area of law, even for a lawyer,” she said.

“There are bars and time limits that mean if you miss one, you’ve had it.

“People just give up and go away. They are not returning to work. They are relying on Medicare and Centrelink.”

Ms Everett said a claim by one badly injured client who needs surgery was denied because her boss didn’t record the injury.

She lodged an appeal, which should take 30 days to process, but after five months, was still waiting for a response.

The scheme agents are out of control,” Ms Everett said. “They don’t even respond to me.”

The state government says the return to work rate of people injured on the job has improved from 82% to 87% as a result of its changes.

Mr Barilaro and Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet said red tape had been cut by half and $10.4 million had been saved in administration costs.

“Disputes and appeals have been dramatically reduced as reforms have made premiums easier to understand and the customer experience improved,” they said.

But Ms Everett said red tape had increased because lawyers were required to seek written approval for every step they took in litigation, including any request for a medical report.

WorkCover NSW’s assessment of the capacity of injured workers to return to work can no longer be challenged before an independent arbitrator.

“It is an in-house review by the insurance company. The Workers Compensation Commission is prohibited from hearing these cases,” she said.

Mr Perrottet said since 2012, the NSW government had taken several measures to make the scheme fair and sustainable, including increasing benefits for the most seriously injured workers.

“As a result of these actions, the workers’ compensation scheme has returned to surplus, is better able to assist workers and the premium burden on business has been slashed by 17.5 per cent for average,” he said.

Footnote:

WorkCover NSW Independent Review Officer (WIRO), Kim Garling, disputed Ms Everett’s claim that red tape had increased because lawyers were required to seek written approval for steps they took in litigation.

“This appears to be a reference to the funding provided by this office to assist injured workers bring their claims against insurers. There is no such requirement,” he said.

Mr Garling said it was incorrect for Ms Everett to say that WorkCover NSW’s assessment of the capacity of injured workers to return to work can no longer be challenged before an independent arbitrator.

“It implies quite clearly that in undertaking the review of a work capacity decision of an insurer I am not independent,” he said.

 

[Source: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/costs-for-injured-workers-being-shifted-to-centrelink-and-medicare-warns-nsw-law-society-20141215-126ucr.html]



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13 Responses to “NSW Law Society: cost for injured workers shifted to Centrelink & Medicare”

  1. This also has been happening in Victoria from long time ago.

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  2. I went to arbitration with my claim and it was all funded by WIRO, thank God. It makes no sense though, other than they expect us to have problems so they fund it. Mmmmm

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    • But what about if your a nz resident and unable to access Centrelink?

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      • It depends on what Australian Visa are you on.

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        • I do t have any visa I’m an Australiam resident for taxation purposes but not when it comes to Centrelink

          Does anyone know if u can get the disability pension while on Workcover? Or can provide any resources to help financially with rent arrears other than Centrelink? Doing it
          Tough

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          • How does that work, you pay TAXES but get jack sh*t in return? You sure you can’t get Centrelink when permanent resident?

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          • Being Australian resident for taxation purpose means nothing so I asked a very clear question: what Visa are you on?

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          • you could go to your local housing service and ask for assistance. they can help with rental arrears, but you may have difficulty due to not being on an income as they have to ensure you can maintain your housing after they help you as a one off. They can also give you other housing options though. Occasionally depending on what housing service it is they will do what is called a “discretionary” help, which means you don’t match the criteria but they will still help you, but as I said it depends on the service and how much money they have left for the month.

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          • @At a loss
            To be a resident for tax purposes is having a visa or being granted permanent resident status which enables you to live and work in Australia, to be a resident for Centrelink/Medicare you have to meet other criteria including a wait period of 2 years, this may have changed recently due to our current federal government, and be a longer period. And I believe excludes New Zealand Citizens:

            The ATO website is down but found this on another site:
            “The following people are considered Australian residents for tax purposes by the ATO:

            those who have always lived in Australia
            those who have moved to Australia permanently
            those who have been in Australia for more than six months working the same job and living in the same place
            those who have been in Australia for more than half the financial year (unless they maintain a home overseas and do not intend to live in Australia)
            If none of these conditions apply, you are most likely a nonresident for tax purposes.

            If there’s any ambiguity regarding your residency status, the determination may depend on your intentions.

            If you leave Australia permanently, you will cease to be a resident on the day you depart. For the fraction of the year before that, you will be treated as a resident.”

            https://www.centrelink.gov.au/onlineclaim/help/australian_residence_help.htm

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            • New Zealand residents also have to wait the 2 years now, that changed a few years ago. While at one point people from New Zealand were able to come over and go on Centrelink benefits straight away, they now have the safe process as other countries.

              I’ts also not a 2 year wait from arriving in the country, you have to apply for your residency and then wait 2 years. If you’re here for 5 years and haven’t applied for resident status yet, it’s 2 years from the day you apply regardless if you have been here for longer than 2 years.

              I used to work in housing and dealt with income difficulties all the time for non residents. You are usually able to get one of the family tax though even if you aren’t a resident from memory.

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    • The government set this up to deal with their ill decision in 2012 therefore they have total control.
      The angst people will go through to reach their destination gives little hope to those injured workers hoping for a positive outcome. Most will give up, suicide, start to self destroy with anything and the government should be ashamed of their decision.

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  3. I have grave concerns for the mental well being of all injured workers.
    With the introduction of legislative changes and loss of all hope will they be recording anywhere a remembrance book for those with suicidal thoughts and actions?
    Pray they don’t botch it up.

    God help them!

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