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.
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”.
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.
“[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.