Just before the Budget Nick Smith announced what he claimed was a major turn-around in ACC’s financial fortunes. Having beaten up ACC’s supposed financial ‘crisis’ since he became the Minister, Smith is suddenly crowing about its financial performance and mooting the concept of levy reductions (could it be an election year…?)
ACC was never in crisis. In fact, ACC was in much better shape when Labour left office in 2008 than it was when National got booted out in 1999. Back then, only 36% of the work account was fully-funded, in other words ACC had an outstanding claims liability for work-related injuries of 64%. By the time Labour left office, that had fallen to 45%.
In 2008, the year the “crisis” was supposed to have happened, ACC collected $3.65 billion in levy revenue and paid out $2.73 billion on claims. The remainder went towards reducing some of that outstanding claims liability.
Looking at the big picture, when National left office in 1999, ACC had $2.5 billion of investments. By the time they came back in 2008, ACC had investments in excess of $12 billion. It’s yet another example of how the Labour Party focused on saving and building up assets for the future, while National’s only plan is to cut stuff.
Nick Smith manufactured a crisis in ACC to soften the public up for changes he knew wouldn’t be popular. He then hiked ACC levies and cut entitlements. Under National, Kiwis pay more for ACC and get less in return. That situation is only going to get worse if they decide to press ahead with their plans to introduce competition (read privatisation) into the ACC work account.
I think ACC is a fantastic system. Undoubtedly there are improvements that can be made, and I’ll talk more about some of those in coming months, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should be proud of our ACC system and National should keep their hands off it.