Taxpayers Picking Up Bill For Injured Workers
Taxpayers are picking up the bill for the cost of injured workers as they go to Medicare and Centrelink rather than seek compensation.
The NSW government has boasted of a 15 per cent reduction in workers’ compensation claims by small businesses and a 17.5 per cent reduction in insurance premiums since major changes were brought in to the workers’ compensation scheme in 2012.
In 2011 the government said the WorkCover scheme was facing a $4.1 billion deficit, but after cutting access to compensation within two years the scheme soared to a surplus of $1.36 billion.
But Ros Everett said as she retired as Law Society President that the costs associated with injured workers has simply been moved from the NSW government to taxpayers who pay for health and social security services.
She said it was far tougher for injured workers to receive compensation under the new system. It requires the most experienced lawyers specialising in compensation law to negotiate the barriers erected in the system for their clients to receive adequate compensation for injuries received at work.
A 2015 study by Macquarie University found more than 5,000 workers have lost their workers’ compensation benefits since the 2012 reforms. At least 260 of the workers were not employed when their benefits were cut. Up to 20,000 workers with long-term injuries also lost their entitlements to medical benefits as a result of the 2012 cuts. There has also been a 24 per cent reduction in compensation claims.
“A thorough rethinking of government policy in this area is required in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of guaranteeing support for injured workers and promoting their recovery and continued return to work,” the university researchers from the Centre for Workforce Futures said in their report.
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.
Critics say WorkCover’s current strong financial position has come at the cost of injured workers’ health and wellbeing. Many injured workers have had to go without medical treatment for their injuries after they were rejected by insurers. The insurers are in a strong position under the new scheme, but there is help available.
Stacks Law Firm has a team of specialists in compensation law appointed as Approved Legal Service Providers in WorkCover’s Independent Legal Assistance and Review Service that was set up to help people with claims. The providers give free legal advice to injured workers who have had their claims rejected or challenged by insurers.