Cuts To Workers Comp Unnecessary, Study Finds
Changes to workers compensation brought in by the NSW government mean that an amputated foot is no longer considered a serious injury. Also under the harsh new rules covering injured workers, people needing prosthetic limbs or hearing aids are no longer provided with ongoing medical benefits.
As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, this means an 80 year old man who lost most of his hearing after working with jack hammers will have to pay $8,500 to replace his hearing aids every three years. He can’t afford it and will be condemned to deafness.
These are just a few examples of the unfairness of the new WorkCover scheme that leaves only the most catastrophically injured workers receiving ongoing financial assistance. The number of injured workers receiving benefits under WorkCover has been slashed from 70,500 in 2012 to 60,000 in 2013. The cost of resolving disputes is now often higher than the cost of the claim.
Critics of the changes warned back in 2012 that they were unnecessarily cruel and handed decision making on injury payments to the insurance companies.
The government said at the time they had to tighten workers compensation entitlements as the WorkCover scheme was costing too much and had a $4 billion deficit.
But now a new report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers tabled in parliament challenges the government’s case for the tough rules.
The report says that without the 2012 changes the deficit would have fallen to $2 billion by June 2014, and to $500 million by June 2018. If the government had done nothing the WorkCover scheme could have reached full funding by 2021.
What’s more, by 2019 the restricted benefits for injured workers will leave WorkCover holding 55 per cent more in assets than it needs to meet its liabilities.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the report shows the government’s arguments for slashing injured workers’ compensation benefits was “masquerading as economic necessity.
“Injured workers and their families will be furious to discover the flimsy rationale for the cuts that have so affected their ability to live with dignity after a work injury,” he told the Herald.
The government is due to review the 2012 changes to the WorkCover scheme later this year. Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet said he would review the data from the PwC report and will also commission an independent statutory review by the Centre for International Economics.
Even though it has been made a lot harder for injured workers to pursue compensation, it would be wise for people injured at work to seek advice from a specialist lawyer experienced in the field.