Calls for ACC reform after hundreds of thousands denied cover
Hamilton man Glenn Hodges says he has been locked in an eight-month battle with ACC over needing a pair of glasses.
He suffered significant concussion issues after a motorsport crash at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in December last year.
His optometrist told him his vision issues were as a result of the crash.
Hodges, 41, is one of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis having their ACC claims rejected, according to a new report.
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The Law Foundation and Otago University released their findings in May, estimating between 200,000 and 300,000 people were missing out on cover, treatment and support from ACC each year.
After the crash, Hodges was left unable to work as a self-employed light engineer and automotive fabricator. He returned to work in June despite ACC saying he was ready to resume work in March.
Hodges said major changes were needed to how ACC operates, including empowering front-line staff and case managers.
"For me the biggest thing has been their refusal to pay for my glasses which I've needed since the crash and has cost me about $1000," Hodges said.
"They argued that because of my age I was due for glasses anyway. They've inferred the whole way through that I've tried to use the accident as a way of getting free glasses, it's absolutely insulting."
The father-of-one said an optometrist told him his vision issues were caused by the crash.
"I'll keep pushing ACC to change their minds and pay for the glasses but if it gets to a point that it's too frustrating then I'll just give up. I think it's their tactic to make it difficult for people and eventually they'll just literally give up and walk away."
Both the Government and Labour say they will implement the recommendations in an independent report by Miriam Dean QC made in September
Minister of ACC Michael Woodhouse declined to be interviewed, but said there is an appropriate review and appeals process for those who have their claims for treatment and rehabilitation declined.
The public's trust and confidence in ACC has increased to 63 per cent, up from 45 per cent in 2012.
Labour's ACC spokeswoman, Sue Moroney, said ACC has become bound up in complex bureaucracy and needs a shake-up.
If Labour won the government benches in September, it would implement all 20 recommendations contained in an independent report.
The recommendations include ACC exploring better ways to collect and analyse data about claims and disputes.
Labour would look at establishing a personal injury commissioner only if implementing the recommendations didn't bring about the desired change, Moroney said.
"I can't see the point of spending more money with more layers of bureaucracy. However, if those recommendations don't work, then you'd have to consider something like a commissioner."
Moroney said ACC's application of the causation tests is too legalistic and narrow. She alleges the Crown agency is increasingly declining claims by arguing an injury is due to natural ageing or is a pre-existing injury.
"ACC conveniently don't keep statistics on the reasons why they deny claims but I know through anecdote these two reasons are the rationale they are using in far too many circumstances."
As hundreds of thousands of Kiwis are locked out of receiving ACC support, other Opposition parties promised a shake-up, saying only a major overhaul can claw back the public's confidence in the corporation.
NZ First leader Winston Peters, a potential coalition kingmaker, said political interference has eroded ACC's integrity.
According to the report from the Law Foundation, ACC's narrow, legalistic interpretation of the law shut out legitimate claimants. Its authors called for the creation of a personal injury commissioner to help people whose claims are declined.
Peters said ACC's original intent had been replaced by a political edict to save money.
"There are examples after examples of what I call systemic dishonesty and we want an urgent, not review, an urgent investigation into why this has happened. Review is not a strong enough word, it needs a serious investigation."
Green Party health spokeswoman Julie-Anne Genter said creating a personal injury commissioner had merit given ACC is being pressured at act as a private insurance company.
The Greens will hold talks with Labour on how ACC can be reformed if the parties form the next government.
"We want to go back to the first principles upon which ACC was formed ... rather than trying to reduce fees and reduce coverage because that's going to end up costing us in the long-term."
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- Sunday Star Times