Over the weekend I blogged about Nick Smith’s manufactured crisis in ACC. National’s agenda is pretty transparent. They’re trying to soften up public support for our excellent accident prevention, compensation and rehabilitation scheme as they prepare to privatise it. Labour will strongly oppose National’s plan to carve up ACC and hand it over to the private insurance industry.
But we’ll also be looking at how we can improve the scheme that we have now, because although we think the system overall is a sound one, we agree that it could be even better. Over the past few months I’ve been meeting with a wide range of ACC stakeholders, from claimants and their advocates through to medical providers and medical assessors.
One of the issues that I’ve become increasingly concerned about is the lack of independence in the specialist medical assessor process. It’s pretty clear to me that ACC have some “tame” medical assessors who are giving them the result that ACC wants, rather than the one that is in the claimant’s best interests.
In some cases, these assessors are working almost exclusively for ACC, making them reluctant to bite the hand that feeds. I’ve also met with specialists who have been all but ‘black listed’ by ACC because they haven’t been willing to give them the assessment results that they want.
So the question I’ve been contemplating is whether we need a bit more independence in the ACC medical assessment process. Should specialist assessors be required to be ‘current practitioners’ in the field they are assessing? Should there be a limit on the proportion of a specialist’s work that can be ACC assessments? Should claimants be given more ‘choice’ over who they go to for specialist assessments?
I’m interested in your views and your stories. Like I said above, I think ACC is a very good system and I’d hate to see it carved up as National want to, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to debate how it can be constructively improved.