20 May 2022
Some things make me unspeakably angry.
In the SMH online today the government giving bonuses to executives who presided over iCare cheating injured people out of their payments and treatments.
In my real job, I treat injured workers and motor vehicle accidents. Many wait more than a year for surgery- my longest was 9 years. They are subjected to Independent Medical Examinations that find any other reason than their accident for the cause of their pain. Age, previous injury and arthritis are the commonest ones. It is stated that they are fit for work, when they are obviously not, or that they can get another job when they obviously have no physical or mental capacity to do another job, let alone compete for one.
The ongoing inefficiency of the computer algorithms making decisions without even anyone being responsible was the brainchild of John Nagle, whose other bright idea was to change his KPI (Key Performance Indicator) from getting people back to work, to having them declared fit to be back to work. Nagle resigned after a bad day at a Parliamentary inquiry. All this happened while iCare was under Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
A friend of mine injured his back lifting on a Friday. He called his GP and visited him on Saturday. He had an MRI scan on Monday which showed a bad disc injury, saw the neurosurgeon on Thursday, had a discectomy on Saturday and went home on Monday. All fixed in 8 days. That is what should happen. It never happens in the WC or CTP system.
The Workers Comp system takes 14 days to accept liability, then has to ‘decide’ if the treatment is appropriate, so weeks go by, and if they dispute it, years. People wait 3 months for the insurer’s medical examination, 6 weeks for the result of it, another couple of months for their specialist examination and a few months for the government medical to settle the dispute. And they blame the injured people for the worse results out of the system, and give bonuses to those who managed to reduce the costs. Given the huge administrative machinery, the clerk, investigators, extra medical examiners, lawyers, dispute resolvers and the rest, all the savings come from not treating people. And those responsible get bonuses, and the government, ever keen not to upset the private sector ring-ins makes sure that they are amply rewarded for this appalling situation. Perrottet, the most recent architect of iCare, had a 2nd inquiry by McDougall to kick the can down the road, then rose to be premier before his report was out.
Here is the SMH article:
Government votes to protect bonuses for icare executives
By Lucy Cormack
May 20, 2022 — 5.00am
The Perrottet government has protected bonus payments for icare executives, rejecting a bid to ban the practice after revelations millions of dollars in bonuses were handed out while injured workers were underpaid.
The attempt to strip bonuses from executives at the state insurer was contained in Opposition amendments blocked in the lower house this week during a vote to amend the state insurance and care legislation.
Icare has been the subject of intense scrutiny since an investigation by the Herald and ABC TV’s Four Corners in 2020 revealed the underpayment of workers while senior executives claimed almost $4 million in salaries and bonuses.
The insurer, which provides workers’ compensation insurance to 3.6 million public and private sector employees in NSW, has since been forced to repay $38 million to 53,000 injured workers.
The scandal prompted the government to amend legislation governing icare, following a review by former judge Robert McDougall, QC.
More than 200 icare employees are entitled to bonuses, including chief executive officer Richard Harding, who is entitled to an incentive of $411,000.
Opposition treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey said there was little justification for bonuses while the insurer continued to record billions of dollars in underwriting losses.
“Employers are staring down the barrel of a decade of rising premiums, yet the government is protecting bonuses for top executives at Australia’s most disaster-prone insurer,” Mookhey said.
“We intend to stand up for employers and injured workers. We will fight against lavish bonuses for icare’s top executives in the Legislative Council next week.”
During debate on Wednesday, Minister for the State Insurance Regulatory Authority Victor Dominello said the McDougall Review had not found executive bonuses at icare were excessive.
He said McDougall noted the benefit of allowing icare to set competitive salaries to “attract appropriate talent”
The Herald last year revealed icare hired 18 new executives with potential annual bonuses collectively worth more than $1.2 million, while employee operating costs have increased from $162 million to more than $200 million since 2020.
However, an icare spokesman previously told the Herald no executive bonuses have been paid in the past two years.
Unions NSW boss Mark Morey wrote to NSW MPs last week calling for reforms to address “repeated governance, financial and operational crises”, including ending executive bonuses.
Other proposed reforms included enforcing the same procurement laws that govern the NSW public sector, from which icare is exempt, and appointing an injured worker to the board.
Morey on Thursday said the government had missed an opportunity to “clean up” the state insurer.
“How can the premier justify continued bonuses for highly paid executives when sick and injured workers have been dudded and small businesses are paying increased premiums?” he said.
Other changes sought by the government included additional powers for the State Insurance Regulatory Authority and expanded access to commutation, which allows injured workers to negotiate lump sum payments and exit the system, rather than remain on weekly payments.
However, the government agreed to withdraw its proposal to allow changes to commutations via regulation and reconsider them in future legislation.
Opposition spokeswoman for industrial relations, work, health and safety Sophie Cotsis said she was pleased the government had agreed to consult further on lump sum payments, arguing that regulation should not be used to expand the system.
The State Insurance and Care Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 will now move to the upper house, where the opposition will make another attempt to ban bonuses.