When National took office, they manufactured a financial crisis in ACC in order to cut entitlements and prepare it for privatisation. Nick Smith’s hysterical claims about the financial state of ACC have now been widely discredited, and even Smith himself is now trying to back away from them by claiming a miraculous financial turnaround in just 18 months.
Smith and the National government used the financial crisis to make a number of changes to ACC that undermine some of the central principles behind the scheme. The changes that they made to compensation for victims of work-related hearing loss illustrate it well.
Under National, the guidelines ACC works to when considering hearing loss claims have been changed and ACC now discounts a person’s hearing loss as they get older, regardless of whether or not that loss is age-related. They’ve also set up an arbitrary 6% hearing loss threshold before compensation is considered, regardless of where on the hearing spectrum the loss happened. It’s quite possible to have less than 6% hearing loss and still not be able to hear the person standing next to you in a crowded room.
One of the core principles of the ACC system is that it’s comprehensive, no-fault coverage. Hearing loss is now the only injury/accident where the victim has to meet an injury severity threshold before they’re covered. I’m pleased the Human Rights Commission has agreed to hear the case. The only fair way to deal with hearing loss cases is to deal with each one individually, based on its own merits. That’s how ACC should work.