Greg Pearce … under attack. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
PAYMENTS for medical expenses will be cut off after 12 months under retrospective changes to workers compensation.
The Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce, yesterday introduced a bill to amend the Workers Compensation Act in response to a parliamentary inquiry into the scheme. The amendments will also cap weekly workers compensation benefits after five years.Advertisement: Story continues below http://ad-apac.doubleclick.net/adi/onl.smh.news/national/nsw;cat=national;cat1=nsw;ctype=article;pos=3;sz=300×250;tile=3;ord=7.8966312E7?
However, the Herald understands that Liberal MP Mark Speakman, who was deputy chairman of the committee, yesterday told a party room meeting that he was concerned about the minister’s decision to make the reforms retrospective.
Mr Speakman also expressed concern the threshhold for lifetime payments for the most serious injuries had been set too high.
People will not receive lifetime payments unless they are assessed at a level of 30 per cent whole person impairment.
The secretary of Unions NSW, Mark Lennon, said the new workers compensation legislation was ”appalling”.
He said the majority of people would be cut off weekly benefits after 2½ years and very few would continue to receive them after five years.
”Whether it be caps on medical payments, the ability to get lump-sum compensation, the removal of journey claims, it is simply an appalling attack on workers’ benefits,” he said.
”If the legislation goes through it will mean the people of NSW will have the worst compensation benefits in the nation.
”It is all about lowering premiums and not about genuine reform.”
Mr Pearce said changes to weekly benefits, medical costs and the duration of cover would apply to existing claims.
Changes to lump sum compensation would apply to existing claims from the date the legislation is introduced.
The changes include the introduction of a one-year maximum period for the payment of medical expenses from the date a claim is made, with the exception of seriously injured workers.
Weekly benefits will be capped at five years to encourage people to return to work.
Injured workers will need to meet a 10 per cent whole person impairment threshold to access lump sum payments, which will no longer include a separate category for pain and suffering.
Mr Pearce said the WorkCover reforms would ensure injured workers get the treatment they need to return to the workforce.
“The government has a clear focus to ensure the scheme gets back to meeting its key aims – supporting injured workers through rehabilitation, getting them back to work, and remaining financially sustainable,” Mr Pearce said.
“The workers’ compensation scheme has been costing the state up to $9 million a day and it’s time to put the plan for recovery into action.
“Its $4 billion deficit is spiralling out of control and we simply cannot afford to wait around.
“The reality is without these reforms, NSW businesses were facing premium hikes of up to 28 per cent, an increase which would stall economic growth and job creation.”
The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said the reforms meant injured workers and their families would be worse off because ”Barry O’Farrell is on an ideological jaunt to cut the benefits to injured workers in NSW”.
”This is a mad rush to cut costs,” he said. ”This is an outrageous attack to a system that provides medical expenses and gets people back to work”.
The federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, accused the NSW government of ”going after” injured workers.