If you think it is not working for you. It turns out, you are not the only one. 

Here's the problem. If you have an injury due to accident, (including a treatment injury) you are covered by ACC. If you are working at the time, you will be entitled to weekly compensation payments at 80% of your earnings. However, if you have an injury caused by disease, or infection you are dependent on the social welfare system. Not everyone, including people who work, will qualify. There is a significant disadvantage for people affected by head and neck cancer. Many of our people will finish there treatment with significant disabilities. 

Remember Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister, he believes there should be a single unified system for everyone. This would mean everyone incapacited by accidents, illness or other disability would be covered by one system.

Way back at the beginning of ACC in 1972 Sir Owen Woodhouse the Chair of the Royal Commission into accident compensation recommended this system. However, only the injury by accident was brought into the scheme. 

The big advantage of one system would be the reduction in lawyers. Currently, lawyers battle the system at the edge, trying to fit injury into the accident category. But many claims are rejected for being degenerative conditions, think knees, hearing loss, and other wear and tear injuries. 

The suggestion is that the change is made slowly. Serious conditions which have substantial impact on people's lives would be covered first. Head and neck cancer is the type of injury that would be covered in the first round. 

If you think, "Wait! This will cost heaps!" Relax. Experts say a simplified system will redistribute funds already in the system. At present there is significnat funds directed to private insurance of sickness. This would not longer be necessary, and people could rely on a public system funded through a levy similar to the current ACC model.

The other big advantage is the ACC requirement to rehabilitate people who are injured. No such requirement exists in the health system. At present there is little help with the many things that head and neck cancer folk need, like health, social, financial support and rehabilitation. None of this is provided as of right, it has to be negotiated and is often discretionary. 

With a good rehabilitation plan in place everyone can rebuild their lives. If they can return to work, maximise their earnings and be less dependent on the system then everyone wins. Even the tax man or woman. 

This will be an interesting one to watch over the next few years. We need to ask New Zealanders, do they really care about people with disabilities? Because "I care," means "I do". It means supporting a significant change to support New Zealand affected by injuries not caused by accidents. It means supporting people affected by head and neck cancer to do better.




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Diana Ayling

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  • In the case of ACC it should make no difference why someone is in need of medical care, only that it is required.

    As the system stands it is too complicated, it leaves the whole thing open to interpretation, which is always a stumbling block.  If legislation is not clear and concise then it does not work and needs fine tuning.  This is where the legal system makes their daily bread, because there are too many 'ifs and buts' - or perhaps this is what was intended ?


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