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NSW injury tribunal plan worries icare

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NSW Government-owned Insurance & Care (icare) has expressed concerns over a parliamentary committee’s suggestion to set up a personal injury tribunal to oversee disputes in compulsory third party (CTP) and workers’ compensation.

The insurer, which runs the scheme covering workers’ compensation, says such an arrangement would not work without due diligence on the issues at stake being made.

“These concerns relate specifically to the differing purposes of the [CTP] and workers’ compensation schemes,” icare says in a submission. “They operate under separate processes, different legislation and different funding.

“They also have differing customer bases, with different statutory entitlements, different permanent impairment entitlements, different damages, different resolution, different streams of resolution, different costs of entitlement, different payments.”

While supporting a study of the tribunal option, icare says thought should be given “to ensuring that any benefits arising from a combined tribunal jurisdiction are real and consider the ongoing complexities of both schemes, as well as consistency in the interpretation and application of the law, not just shared administrative resources”.

The Insurance Council of Australia is more positive about the tribunal proposal, saying it could produce greater efficiency, better manage allocation of resources and triaging of disputes, and improve facilitation of data-sharing between schemes.

But it warns such a tribunal would have to be accorded “a level of flexibility” to handle the different environments and frameworks of the two schemes.

“Any reform to the dispute resolution processes within the statutory personal injury schemes should be claimant or ‘customer’ focused and respond directly to their needs,” the council says in its submission.

National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) CEO Dallas Booth says while he is not in a position to comment on the feasibility of the proposed tribunal because not enough detailed information is available, the association’s submission points to “very serious negative trends” in the number and cost of claims recorded by the workers’ compensation scheme in 2016/17.

It calls for the parliamentary committee to monitor the situation, because “negative financial trends have the capacity to result in higher premiums for every employer in NSW”.

icare’s annual report shows the workers’ compensation scheme had a $988 million deficit in 2016/17.

“We understand from recent information provided by icare that premium levels will remain essentially the same in an overall sense so the premium pool will be similar,” Mr Booth told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“So that raises the question… is the scheme being sufficiently funded?”

NIBA says there should be a thorough analysis of the nature of disputed matters and questions whether dispute resolution procedures would have been necessary if matters had been handled differently.