Billion-dollar workers compensation package overhaul announced for NSW employees

Workcover-nsw-art-2015-2

A billion-dollar workers compensation package has been announced in a winding back of some of the measures that stripped New South Wales’ workers of entitlements. Is this true or are we dreaming? Perhaps let’s wait for the fine print!

Billion-dollar workers compensation package overhaul announced for New South Wales employees

By Lucy McNally

Posted about 3 hours ago

Workcover-nsw-art-2015Photo [right]: Injured worker Ricky Wilson has welcomed the workers compensation changes, saying they will help with medical costs and retraining. (Supplied: Cassie Wilson)

A billion-dollar workers compensation package has been announced in a winding back of some of the measures that stripped New South Wales’ workers of entitlements.

In 2012 the State Government overhauled workers compensation under the former premier Barry O’Farrell, aimed at reining in Work Cover’s $4 billion deficit.

The changes were heavily criticised because they slashed medical benefits for workers including people who had lost limbs and hearing.

Last year an independent report found the scheme was skewed towards employers, because workers have more restrictions than insurance companies in using lawyers.

NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet has today announced the Government is spending $1 billion on a new package.

“This is a system that places the injured workers and businesses at the centre of decision making,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Now that we are on a financially stable footing after fixing Labor’s $4.1 billion scheme deficit, we can proceed with the next stage of reform to better support injured workers, incentivise safe workplaces and keep premiums down.”

Workers to access more money for medical expenses

Under the new scheme, injured workers will have access to more money for medical expenses, with certain prostheses being covered and other “life aids”.

There will also be increased lump sum payments and minimum weekly payments to injured workers, as well as money to help people retrain and return to work.

The minister said the reform package also benefits employers, with five to 20 per cent discounts in premiums for businesses that maintain safe workplaces and help injured workers return to work.

“These reforms honour the Government’s election commitment to provide two-thirds of every dollar, above the amount to keep the scheme sustainable, to support injured workers and one-third to lower premiums for business,” Mr Perrottet said.

Ricky Wilson suffered a ruptured cervical spine while working as an apprentice fitter in West Gosford in 2011.

It’s definitely a start, especially with the medicals for life they’re offering because with my condition I will deteriorate a lot quicker than just anybody
Worker Ricky Wilson

At the time of his injury the old compensation scheme was in place, but within six months Work Cover was overhauled and he lost many benefits.

“It was so frustrating, I was under so much financial strain and all of a sudden legal costs weren’t covered so to be able to get help from the workers compensation scheme we had to hire a solicitor because we didn’t know everything,” he said.

“We were left out of pocket.”

Now 25, Mr Wilson has had an operation, costing around $40,000.

He said claiming that money back was an ordeal – it was originally denied, and took nine months to be approved after several appeals.

“This injury will be for life and I’m on medicine for the rest of my life, I need constant treatment such as physiotherapy,” he said.

Mr Wilson said he was pleased the Government announced the package.

“It’s definitely a start, especially with the medicals for life they’re offering because with my condition I will deteriorate a lot quicker than just anybody and it’s more than likely I will need some form of surgery in my later years of life,” he said.

“I’m also glad they’re going to offer retraining grants because I can’t work in my field any more so all the experience I learned from my previous job is pretty much out the window.”

Mr Wilson said even four years on, his injury remains a heavy psychological burden.

“I have a nine-month-old girl and I really struggle with that – I can only lift her for a certain amount of time,” he said.

“It’s definitely depressing being able to not look after your child and relying on your wife.”

[Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-04/billion-dollar-workers-compensation-package-overhaul-announced/6671052] And kindly expressed shared by EmPea


NSW government to wind back WorkCover cuts to injured workers

Anna Patty
4 August 2015

The Baird reforms are expected to include improvements such as increased entitlement to medical expenses, prostheses and hearing aids for all injured workers.

The Baird government is winding back controversial changes to the Workers’ Compensation Scheme by restoring $1 billion in benefits to injured workers and businesses.

The NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Dominic Perrottet, is expected to put the new reform package to the joint party room on Tuesday morning.

The changes include a major overhaul of WorkCover to address a conflict of interest in its dual role as safety regulator and insurer. The authority will be split into three agencies to separate its safety and insurance functions and to assist injured workers during the claims process.

Changes introduced in 2012 by the former Finance Minister Paul Pearce and Premier Barry O’Farrell resulted in the slashing of medical benefits to injured workers, including those who had lost limbs or their hearing in workplace accidents. Fairfax Media understands Premier Mike Baird has been concerned that the cuts in medical benefits went too far.

Mr Perrottet said the government was now “creating a fairer system”.

“A system that is financially sustainable now and into the future,” he said.

Medical benefits to injured workers were cut in 2012 in response to a $4.1 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme, which is now in surplus.

“Now that we are on a financially stable footing after fixing Labor’s $4.1 billion scheme deficit, we can proceed with the next stage of reform to better support injured workers, incentivise safe workplaces and keep premiums down,” Mr Perrottet said.

Businesses that improve their performance in workplace safety and injury prevention will be rewarded with premium discounts of 5 to 20 per cent, worth a total of $170 to $200 million.

Improvements in benefits for injured workers will include an increased entitlement to medical expenses, prostheses and hearing aids.

The threshold for injured workers with permanent impairment entitled to lifelong medical expenses will be lowered from 30 to 20 per cent of impairment to their whole body.

Under the changes, all people in need of prosthetics and hearing aids, who are currently denied benefits, will now get them for life.

Medical benefits will be extended from 12 months to two years for people with less serious injuries (up to 10 per cent impairment).

For those with more serious injuries (11 to 20 per cent impairment), medical benefits will be provided for five years.

The lump sum death benefit will increase from $524,000 to up to $750,000. And funeral expenses for families of workers who are killed will increase from $9000 to $15,000.

Mr Perrottet said the reforms honour the government’s election commitment to provide two-thirds of every dollar, above the amount needed to sustain the scheme, to support injured workers. One-third would be used to lower insurance premiums for business.

“We have simplified the system for all who engage with it, enhanced benefits to better support injured workers, and provided substantial discounts on premiums to drive safer workplaces,” he said.

The three new agencies that will replace WorkCover include SafeWork NSW, which will be responsible for work health and safety regulation including safety inspections of work sites.

A second agency called Insurance & Care NSW (icare) will focus on improving service delivery to injured workers, including the tracking of claims processing.

The third agency, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), will regulate all state insurance schemes, including workers’ compensation and third party insurance.

No job losses are expected to result from the restructure.

Greens MP David Shoebridge, who was a member of a recent upper house parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover, said the inquiry demonstrated the need to restore medical benefits to injured workers.

“This is a scheme in which injured workers have been paying the price and the only benefit has been a swollen surplus,” he said.

 

[Source: http://www.watoday.com.au/nsw/nsw-government-to-wind-back-workcover-cuts-to-injured-workers-20150802-gipxz9]



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10 Responses to “Billion-dollar workers compensation package overhaul announced for NSW employees”

  1. I hate to be a party pooper and ruin the obvious celebrations that injured workers will be having all over NSW but there is a very insidious statement in this so called policy and it is this –

    “Businesses that improve their performance in workplace safety and injury prevention will be rewarded with premium discounts of 5 to 20 per cent, worth a total of $170 to $200 million.” This is already happening in the workplace. I have spoken to workers who have stated that managers are now scorning those injured at work and pressuring them to not fill in forms for their injuries. Flow charts have been put up in the workpace showing how ‘no injuries have occurred this month’ and if you are injured, watch out, phone calls and harassment will be coming your way from the supervisor and then if you do dare to claim, from the case manager.

    I am not surprised by this at all, the name of the game is profit at all cost and that has been workers comp for a long time. A drop in premiums should be the absolute LAST consideration in this scheme.

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    • Spot on Bunny – and as we said: “Perhaps let’s wait for the fine print!” before celebrating. I am pretty sure there will be fairly harsh criteria/thresholds to meet by injured workers in NSW before they’ll potentially be ‘eligible’ for extras. The name of the game is not just money but politics.

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    • e-mail sent

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      • Sorry Suzanne, I have been using another computer and left the password at home. Will get back to you this weekend.

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  2. As posted on our “sister” site, the Injured Workers Support Network (IWSN) and worth re-posting:

    The Injured Workers Support Network Welcomes the Baird Governments Change of Heart. We have some questions though…..

    The Injured Workers Support Network, represents over one thousand injured workers throughout NSW providing support and advice on the workers compensation system and coping with the life changing impact of a workplace injury.

    As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, the Baird Government is set to re-introduce $1 billion dollars of benefits they had stripped from workers in 2012. Any attempt by this Government to address the unfair workers compensation system is welcomed by our members but, as was obvious in Perrottet’s first crack at this in 2014, the devil is very much in the detail. The Injured Workers Support Network wants to know wants to know if Perrottet’s changes will benefit all injured workers equally this time.

    Will this be retrospective?

    Approximately 50,000 injured workers have been kicked off the system since 2012. Will Perrottet and Baird redress the pain they caused these people with these new changes? Will the member who has one month to go until he has to fork out $150 a month for pain killers out of his new start allowance be given five more years?

    The Injured Workers Support Network urges The Baird government to put aside the rhetoric and concentrate their efforts in truly making these additions fair. Instruct the Insurers to reopen workers compensation files where, if they were open, they would be in receipt of these new benefits.
    ——————
    Well said! And we fully agree!

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  3. You’re absolutely right Bunny. I have a story and evidence that would prove employers don’t want you to make claims – maybe one day i’ll share it on these sites.

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  4. Yea well lets see if this is just fanfare.

    Funny this came out cause yesterday my insurer called up to let me know that they will be terminating my benefits in mid November, 2015.

    I asked if they were disputing my claim an the answer I got was “they are disputing my incapacity to work… based on reports by an IME, a functional assessment and the surgeon who operated on my knee.”

    The IME examination lasted 10 min. A functional assesment lasted 2 hrs which i still had pain from for the next 2 days as confirmed via constant conmunication with the assesor and witnessed by other parties. Finally a surgeon who at the begining said that later on in life i will be needing a knee replacement and now has specifically said “…no. You wont need (knee replacement). Your knee will be fine. You need to consider a lifestyle change that involves not kneeling.”

    I have requested for a second opinion but have not given authorisation. Well sorry I lied. At first i told them that i needed to get a 2nd opinion and they said ok. The day i was meant to see the dr, they decided to unauthorise me seeing the specialist stating that “it was unwarranted”.

    To me these companies are f****d because all im seeing from them is how they are so focused on my “return to work” and no-one wants to care/fix my bunged knee.

    I already told them, im happy to go back to work. I want to go back to work. Actually ive been back to work. x4. Thats right. 4 times i went back. The last time i felt good and confident that my knee was healed. Dr was was happy for me to return to full pre-injury duties. Didnt even last 3 days. This was more than 3 months after the surgery. A surgery that was meant to be quick and allow me to be back to work in 1-2 weeks.

    So yes, i agree with the “professional insurance agent” in that my request for a 2nd opinion is “unwarranted”

    FUCK YOU ALL VERY MUCH!

    Yours sincerely
    Piling Specialist

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  5. @ratu- You need to file for conciliation at once. This is the only way you can dispute this. Read the VWA Claims Manual about the process. You should also be engaging a lawyer if you haven’t done already. You will find it really hard without one and your insurance company behaves (a little) better when they know you have one. The first visit is free and they’ll tell you if its worth it or not. More info on this site.
    Did they agree to a second opinion in writing or phone? Email is your best form of communication- a paper trail!
    Was a RTW coordinator involved?
    Is your pre injury employer happy/pushing to have you back- is that in writing? Has your GP signed you off to work- any restrictions or back to pre injury duties and hours?
    Have you seen the IME/surgeon report- if not request a copy. There’s more info on this site about how.
    When you say dumping your benefits-all medical and wages?
    1. Get a lawyer 2. file for conciliation (or your lawyer definitely will) 3. read the VWA Claims manual
    Good Luck
    MadChef

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    • Thank you MadChef for your comment. I honestly am very appreciative. Maybe I was to nice let these people walk all over me. I shouldve just gone with my gut instint and just kill and eat the karnts. Lol….at least i know that they’ll always be replaced but by then, i’ll definately need a lawyer. Hahahaha.(**jokes*** <— disclaimer for all you parrisites who are against free speech) yes… you know who you are, scanning this site.

      Anyhoo, this case is in NSW. I do apologise for not stating that previously.

      😀

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