Monday, June 25, 2012

Getting what they paid for

Last week, we learned that ACC was giving staff bonuses for cutting long-term clients from the scheme - effectively incentivising denying claimants their full entitlements. Over the weekend, we learned that they were getting what they paid for, with long-term client numbers slashed by a quarter since 2009 and an increase in long-term clients dumped onto benefits. But we're not looking at a rogue department, pursuing its own agenda out of a toxic internal culture; this has all been official government policy:

ACC'S policy of ridding itself of thousands of long-term clients is laid bare in agreements the corporation signed with the Government revealing that a far tougher quota system was adopted two years ago.


In June 2010, then ACC minister Nick Smith and outgoing ACC chairman John Judge signed a three-year agreement that stated as a "priority" that the corporation would get rid of 1150 long-term clients a year. It had 13,157 such clients when the service and purchase agreement was signed.

For the first year of the agreement, ACC beat its target by "exiting" 1542 clients. The agreement was then amended, and last year aimed to reduce long-term client numbers by 406. ACC again beat that figure by cutting 843.

Yes, that's right: National's official ACC policy, signed off by its Minister, is to deny claimants their full entitlements. Anyone remember them saying that while running for election?

This is simply evil. There is no other word to describe it. ACC exists to provide people with universal, no-fault accident cover. There is no fallback system. If you get booted, you end up in penury. But that is exactly what National's policy is designed to do: to drive people into poverty, so that it can give a few more dollars to its rich mates in tax cuts. But on a more mundane level, its simply theft. We pay for ACC, through levies and taxes, in the expectation that we will receive cover if we are unlucky enough to be the victim of an accident. National is denying us cover. So they are taking our money while refusing to provide the service we have paid for. That may be normal in the insurance industry (let's be honest: that's how they make their profits) - but it is absolutely unacceptable in a government service.

However you think of it, we should not tolerate it. This policy must be reversed, and those responsible for suggesting and implementing it cleaned out. We need a fair system of ACC, and that means one that pays accident victims what they are entitled to - not one which looks for reasons to deny cover so management can get a bonus.