Thousands NSW injured workers lose workcover benefits with new scheme

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More than 5000 NSW injured workers have lost their workers’ compensation benefits since the state government overhauled the WorkCover NSW scheme in 2012, a new Macquarie University research study has found.

Thousands lose workers compensation benefits with new scheme: report

By Anna Patty | The Age – NSW

More than 5000 injured workers have lost their workers’ compensation benefits since the state government overhauled the scheme in 2012, a new study has found.

Brian Weston of Collaroy Plateau is among injured workers who have lost their lifetime medical benefits.

Macquarie University researchers led by Professor Ray Markey from the Centre for Workforce Futures have found a 24 per cent reduction in compensation claims since the scheme was amended.

A thorough rethinking of government policy in this area is required in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of guaranteeing support for injured workers. 

Changes to the way injured workers are assessed have led to the termination of income entitlements to 5000 people. At least 260 of the workers were not employed when their benefits were cut.

Up to 20,000 workers with long-term injuries have also lost their entitlements to medical benefits as a result of the 2012 cuts.

Brian Weston of Collaroy Plateau is among injured workers who have lost their lifetime medical benefits.

Mr Weston, who injured his back while working at a retirement village in 1988, said his marriage broke down after the changes.

“I want this government to reinstate medical services for all injured workers,” he said.

The Macquarie University researchers said the NSW government’s changes to regulations in September 2014, which wound back some of the changes for people injured before 2012 “have not gone far enough to restore fairness and equity in the NSW workers’ compensation scheme”.

“A thorough rethinking of government policy in this area is required in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of guaranteeing support for injured workers and promoting their recovery and continued return to work,” the researchers said.

Mark Lennon, secretary for Unions NSW, which commissioned the university study, said it showed that WorkCover’s now strong financial position had come at the cost of injured workers’ health and wellbeing.

“Tens of thousands of people injured at work have been left on the scrap heap by this government,” he said. “Many have been forced onto Centrelink benefits and have had to go without medical treatment for their injuries.

“[T]his report finds that restoring benefits to injured workers is entirely affordable within the scheme.”

In 2011, the NSW government said the changes to WorkCover were needed because it was facing a $4.1 billion deficit. This led to a reduction in entitlements for injured workers and employer premiums. The scheme returned to a surplus of $1.36 billion in December 2013.

The researchers say the removal of claims for journeys to and from work has shifted costs from the workers’ compensation scheme to Medicare, Centrelink and compulsory third party motor vehicle insurance.

A spokesman for WorkCover said that while claim numbers have fallen since the 2012 reforms were introduced, it was too early to tell how much of this was a result of the reforms. “And how much is a result of an increased focus on prevention and better claims management,” he said.

The spokesman said the Centre for International Economics reviewed the changes in June last year and reported a dip in claiming behaviour was unexplainable by the amendments alone.

“WorkCover will continue to work with the community and business to prevent work-related injuries,” the spokesman said.

Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet said businesses faced premium rises of up to 28 per cent and more than 12,000 jobs would have been at risk without the WorkCover reforms.

“Thanks to the 2012 reforms, the scheme is back in surplus, our return to work rate is equal to the national average, premiums have been reduced by 17 per cent and the most seriously injured workers are receiving substantially more benefits than before,” he said.

[Source: http://www.theage.com.au/nsw/thousands-lose-workers-compensation-benefits-with-new-scheme-report-20150305-13vmho.html]



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6 Responses to “Thousands NSW injured workers lose workcover benefits with new scheme”

  1. Can someone explain to me how seriously injured workers are receiving more under the new scheme when the (a) give the pre-2012 claimants half the amount that post 2012 get (b) those that remain in the old system get their old benefits of the new benefits (whichever is the greater) but still not what a new claimant gets?

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  2. A dip in claiming behaviour unexplainable by the amendments alone?
    I know in my case as a genuine injured worker the dip appears totally explainable by the amendments combined with the behavior of the scheming (scheme) agents.
    I had a genuine claim denied once it came to surgery after 10 months of treatment and it was only my tenacity in seeking a fair outcome and compiling a lengthy request for a review with documentation that has this overturned. The insurer’s legal team obviously knew they would have no leg to stand on if it went to the Commission.
    The 12 month cut off for treatment is ridiculous. As the above article states it has shifted costs to the worker , Medicare, private health insurers, etc. Although I had returned to full duties I was working with a post-surgery injury that remained problematic. I was told by two specialists and my rehabilitation physician that my recovery was slower than most to get there within the 6-12 months time frame. I myself had done everything possible to support full recovery. The whole process has left me drained physically , emotionally and financially. I try hard to be the person I was before the injury but I struggle to find her.

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  3. They forget to mention the scheme 4.6 billion dollar deficit was a future projection that they got wrong as the scheme started recovery on its own even before the new changes were fully impacted. It think it was less around six months into the changes before the deficit had already turned to around 1.3 million dollar surplus and this has now become 1.3 billion dollar surplus in 18 months. Much of this time workers had not even been transitioned into the new scheme. It is simply not possible for a 5 billion dollar savings to be attributed to the changes in legislation over such a short period of time. Can you show me where the 5 billion dollars reduction in benefits exists in real figures? The scheme figures were more related to the investments and the economy and were rubbery in the first place. I’m pretty sure Price Waterhouse Coopers already admitted something like this. The scheme did need an honest review, but for the government to continue to blame injured workers and to claim the changes have resulted in such savings is simply false and misleading and they should be taken to task for this at the election at the end of this month in NSW. Shame, Mr Perrottet, shame, for ripping off injured workers for your own political purposes.

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    Bashed and bullied March 11, 2015 at 8:48 am
  4. I was injured by faulty equipment at work my work van seat padding kept on breaking down due to the excessive use of entering and exiting the van each day and having to pull myself into the van and jump shuffle over to sit in the seat.
    i entered and exited over 100 times a day, Volkswagen Australia replaced the seat twice and a motor trimmer once again. this was over a year period after having enough of the pain i claimed for medical expenses without time lost as i was a loyal worker, to now in the 3rd of June having treatment ceased after having trochanderic bursitis diagnosed in both thighs/ hips.
    right side came up OK but left is still in pain i have been also left without any avenue of getting anymore medical treatment paid for i didn’t lose time for the company and it didn’t cost as much to workcover but i get treated like a leper.
    Workcover NSW should be renamed to Cost cover as it is only cost they are worried about and not the health or mental health and the workers family they are worried about.
    If there ever was a politician who worked a full hard day in their life as a blue collared worker someone who actually sweated for a dime, and not sweated just during their lunch time jog because they need to lose some kilos because they sit on their fat ass all day spinning shit to the people of nsw they would understand the plight of the injured worker

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  5. I am so very, very sorry to read you story. It is the stories that really highlight the everyday plight and pain of injured workers.
    Whilst the system aims to get people back to work it encourages workers to take time and not work with / through an injury as it will be used against them. It is a betrayal for the conscientious worker.
    The system also lacks due care in that once a worker is back at work it is deemed they no longer require supportive treatment even if surgery is deemed to have a 12 month time frame for full recovery.
    There is no ‘Age of Entitlement’ for the injured worker only for those that manage the system.

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    • i had a meeting with my local member of Parliament a mark speakerman,
      and addressed the 59 a clause outlining the unfairness of the amendment stating that there should be a safety net in place that if a worker has not recovered or has issues later on in life from the injury that the worker can ask for a workcover approved doctor to get re assessed for the injury. i stated that not everyone recovers the same due to many factors age, health etc.I also stated that i find it unfair that after 12 months the cost of all medical falls back to either medicare and the workers private health fund,after all it was a work injury that made the worker sick or injured, in reply he said it would cost industry more for insurance and in reply i said so be it factor the cost in the cost of having an employee. After all if you don’t have employees you technically don’t have a business. he is asking the questions to the relevant minister and i am awaiting his response, till next time.

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