ACC is all take and no give

ROSEMARY MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014

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Rosemary McLeod

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OPINION: How do I dislike ACC? Let me count the ways.

I detest its correspondence, with its menacing wording about what will happen if I don't cough up my contributions. The corporation has the finesse of a mob bagman.

Bearing in mind that I pay, and always have, automatically through my bank, what's their problem? I'm left suspecting that I'm paying for protection of a rather different nature from what ACC advertises.

I resent that I have to make a substantial contribution to its funds as a writer – for what?

Dropping a pen on my foot? RSI? No self-employed writer could give up work entirely for a time to deal with a repetitive sprain injury, so I guess I'm subsidising the lucky ones on permanent payrolls who also get the annual leave entitlements and health insurance perks the self-employed can't afford. I've heard of a journalist getting two years off on full pay for RSI. I paid a chunk of that.

ACC's aggressive approach is especially annoying because it has the right to demand from me, but I have no right to demand from it in return.

I'd expect no better from a private insurer, but ACC is supposed to be there for all New Zealanders who need it.

I also recall that the corporation's former chief executive, Jeffrey Chapman, was jailed for defrauding ACC and other agencies, and that his successor was also charged with fraud, but acquitted.

A national property manager for ACC pleaded guilty for accepting gifts of $169,000 to fund what the judge called his "lavish lifestyle".

Then there was the report last year that 64 people had defrauded ACC of more than $10 million over four years, suggesting that while many people have to fight hard for their entitlements, others slip easily under the radar, keeping their hands out for more.

Bearing its historic and recent dishonesty and mismanagement in mind, am I entitled to make sullen threats, should I correspond with ACC, in the same tone as it uses with me?

Beyond all this, I distrust it. Like the insurers dealing with the Christchurch quake, I know it will find a way to wriggle out of paying me for what I'm supposedly covered for.

Here I will moan about my frozen shoulder, which could be operated on if I could afford that luxury.

I think of ACC, which turned down my claim, every time I hear bare bone inside my shoulder rubbing against bare bone, and it's scant comfort to know that my personal troubles with ACC are the least of it.

It seems that part of the agenda is to force people to use the private health system, taking pressure off public hospitals so they can tell us how efficient they've become.

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I guess they have, since they've dropped some operations completely.

There are people getting varicose veins from long periods of standing at work. Too bad. It could be genetic. And older people routinely have ACC claims for broken bones dismissed as being the result of pre-existing conditions, like being older. This strikes me as a mini-rort, because we still pay for cover after our gilded youth has passed.

You'd think we'd pay lower premiums, since age is a factor in ACC's decision-making, while youthful sportspeople, who use up zillions of ACC funds for willingly taking risks with their bodies, would pay more – but ageism seems to be the rule of thumb.

Now I have fresh reason to dislike ACC, since a newly leaked report has outlined how it manipulates its claims policy to fall in line with successive governments. It is quite possibly a political decision, then, that you may either go without proper treatment, or get less compensation than you should, because ACC wants to please its minister.

That internal report, produced for a former chief executive, alludes to "ACC's low trust and confidence scores [that will] continue to be an inhibitor for enduring trust."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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