Palmer ACC plan creates more inequities

Sir Geoffrey Palmer wants substantial reform of the Accident Compensation Corporation. He believes it is unfair and plain wrong that a person injured in an accident is treated more generously than one “laid low by cancer, a heart attack or stroke”.

There is, of course, some merit in that argument. It can seem a nonsense that a person who is injured in the pursuit of high-risk adventure is covered while another who finds themselves incapacitated, through no fault of their own, by disability or illness does not enjoy the same protection.

Palmer says drawing a line between such things is difficult and unfair. He’s right.

But talk of addressing that perceived inequity skips over the potential consequences for the country, the economy and those he supports. It also ignores how the market has moved on to help fill the void Palmer highlights.

A system covering not only injury but also illness would require many more billions of dollars in funding and levies, meaning a substantial drain on the economy and businesses that support it.

Also, many Kiwis have themselves noted the gaps and perceived inadequacies of the country’s health system and arranged health insurance. For some it is a recognition of the need for more personal responsibility.

Not everyone is able to make that financial sacrifice, and others are born with ailments and disabilities not covered by insurance.

For those people, Palmer’s concept of a “single unified system” would help, but wouldn’t it make sense to invest more in a robust, responsive health system that could deliver this anyway, and without the potential burden of another separate, de facto funding body taking money from surgeons, specialists, doctors and nurses?

ACC is not perfect. Far from it. Some reform is needed to make it fairer, but minister Iain Lees-Galloway should think very carefully if the Palmer option ever makes it on to his desk.

The Dominion Post Sept 12 2018