iCare- a letter to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald
24 November 2022
iCare was set up by private insurers on their model with the NSW government keen to minimise costs, take profits and distribute them (just before the last election). So iCare delays or refuses treatments to the needy, and was very careless about what their Pre-Accident Average Weekly Earnings (PIAWE) were. Many accident victims complained that they were underpaid, and that was before their compensation was stopped or cut because they were certified partially fit to do jobs that could not be found.
The overheads of Medicare are about 5%, iCare about 38%, so it is totally inefficient as well as incompetent with bloated salaries for the top executives who think it is a financial problem rather than a medical one and hence are unable to solve it. The real solution would be to fund Medicare as the only medical system and let the insurers have widespread income-guarantee insurance.
Dr Chesterfield-Evans- works as a GP specialising in Workers Comp and CTP injuries.
Here is an article from today’s SMH
Injured workers to lose benefits
Greg Dayman is one of almost 400 workers who will get a Christmas ‘‘present’’ they will never forget.
The Sydney construction worker was badly injured on a building site in 2013, which left him unable to work with chronic pain in his neck, the side of his head, down his arm, torso and leg.
In 2017 he was among thousands of employees whose compensation payments to cover wages were cut as part of controversial reforms to the state’s scandal-ridden icare organisation. Changes to the legislation terminated injured workers receiving weekly wage benefits after five years unless they met a whole body impairment assessment of more than 20 per cent.
However, he still received medical or health benefits. Now he has found out even these will be cut from December 25.
‘‘It’s another upper-cut,’’ he said. ‘‘And to do it on Christmas Day, that’s just cruel.’’
Dayman is one of 395 workers facing a grim future as a crisis at icare deepens, with a document prepared by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) revealing the workers’ compensation scheme ‘‘has deteriorated to the point the longer-term sustainability of the scheme is under threat’’.
NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford will hold a performance audit into icare next year that will examine how effectively key risks are managed, including the rising cost of workers’ compensation claims and its payment processes. Dayman said he lost everything after his injury.
‘‘I lost my health, my career, and financially I’m in a position that if my specs break I can’t afford to buy them. The system dehumanises you, so you give up.’’
He does now qualify for a disability pension but will have to rely on Medicare for future medical treatment. ‘‘I have been suicidal at times because of the system and the way it treats you,’’ he said. ‘‘My time is spent trying to survive.’’
In the executive summary of SIRA’s review into icare’s Nominal Insurer Improvement Plan, dated September 26, the authority said it had a ‘‘low level’’ of confidence icare’s strategy would improve return to work rates and overall performance.
In 2015-16, 93 per cent of injured workers were back at work 26 weeks after their injury, compared with 84 per cent in August 2022.
SIRA said it believed icare’s strategy ‘‘encompasses an increase in work capacity decisions to cease worker benefits instead of focusing on improving health and recovery through return to work’’.
Richard Harding, icare’s managing director and CEO, said it was the insurer’s role to implement the law, and legislation ‘‘does not give icare any discretion to act outside that’’. ‘‘Tailored and individualised support is provided to workers transitioning from the workers’ compensation scheme,’’ he said. ‘‘This may include support from NDIS, Community Support Services and Medicare in conjunction with their GP.’’
This masthead this week revealed a third underpayment scandal of injured workers and concerns raised by NSW Treasury in August that a deterioration in icare’s finances would require insurance premiums to rise 33 per cent by 2025, or $1 billion a year, to cover the shortfall.
Against this backdrop, the icare board granted pay increases to 116 of its executives, including Harding, making him one of the state’s top-paid public servants, earning more than $1 million a year.
Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said icare’s finances were in a catastrophic condition.
‘‘They’ve lost billions. They are planning massive premium hikes. And their next step is to expel even more injured workers from the system,’’ he said.
‘‘It is a ruthless tactic stemming from their financial desperation.’’
In a statement, SIRA chief executive Adam Dent said its views on the Nominal Insurer Improvement Plan in September were made with limited detail on how the plan would be executed.
‘‘Over recent weeks, SIRA has continued to engage with icare to address information gaps, including detailed briefings on managing IT and transition risks associated with the onboarding of new claims services providers.’’
But SIRA said poor return to work performance continued to be an issue of concern.
‘‘Icare’s targets for 2023 are lower than current return to work rates, and they are projecting a further decline of 2.5 per cent on 26-week return to work rates through 2023 and 2024 as the scheme transitions to new claims providers,’’ Dent said.
Icare said its focus was building injured workers’ capacity for employment using rehabilitation providers and associated vocational placement interventions. ‘‘This includes assistance with job seeking and vocational retraining. Work capacity decision-making is applied when the worker has a demonstrated capacity for work and has been provided the right support.’’
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