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Disability insurance reform overdue, says Suncorp

Suncorp has welcomed a fundamental shake-up of disability insurance ahead of a series of summits examining the structure of a national scheme.

Reforms to disability care and traumatic injury insurance would see a national system in place by July 2015 covering more than half of Australians with life-long severe injuries who have no access to insurance.

Suncorp EGM Statutory Portfolio Chris McHugh says reforms proposed by the Federal Government are long overdue. Suncorp is Australia’s largest personal injury insurer, and has previously argued the cost of the current patchwork of state and national arrangements is unsustainable.

“It’s critical that implementation is well co-ordinated and that the scheme is sustainable,” Mr McHugh said.

“The proposed reforms will have a positive impact on the quality of life of many Australians.”

The Productivity Commission’s February 2011 report into disability care and support found disability services were underfunded, disjointed and structurally flawed. Support for people covered under the national disability agreement and home and community care services was particularly lacking.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that by 2030 around 2.3 million Australians will have a high-level disability.

The report recommended the creation of separate national insurance schemes covering all Australians – the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS).

The NDIS will provide support under a three-tier scheme covering severe and moderate disabilities, while no-fault injuries will be covered by the NIIS, which will insure against catastrophic injury from motor vehicle, criminal, medical and general accidents.

Neither insurance scheme will replace existing services – including state-based WorkCover arrangements – but will extend cover in areas where it is not available or underfunded. States would control the implementation and development of each scheme, including premiums and risk ratings.

The Productivity Commission estimates the costs of the scheme would be $6.5 billion in 2018 alone, equating to around 4% of existing tax revenue. The net cost of the NDIS equates to an annual $295 premium a person for comprehensive cover.

The commission also estimates that in its current form, the scheme is currently underfunded by about 50%.

Suncorp and PricewaterhouseCoopers hosted the first of six seminars on the economic and social impacts of the proposed changes last week.

The summit follows the creation of the National Injury Insurance Scheme Advisory Group by Financial Services and Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten in November to help in the implementation of the commission’s findings.

The next summit is scheduled for May.

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