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Workers' comp regulator reviews COVID impacts

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The NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is consulting on workers’ compensation reforms recommended by the McDougall review and on possible COVID-related changes as pandemic impacts continue.

SIRA says it has overseen numerous measures to address effects of COVID-19 on personal injury schemes, but more steps may be needed to manage scheme impacts and customer outcomes as the situation changes.

“COVID-19 has created unprecedented community, workplace, and economic impacts and challenges,” the consultation paper says.

“Among the impacts are a new group of workers’ compensation claims, for people who catch the virus or sustain a vaccine-related injury through work. These claims may impact insurers’ claims management services and result in additional costs to employers that fund the scheme.”

COVID-19 direct impacts include that some non-urgent medical treatments have been unavailable or delayed for prolonged periods, potentially causing some workers to lose access due to time limits.

The consultation paper also looks at remaining matters to be finalised from the McDougall review, undertaken to address concerns raised about the performance of state-owned insurer icare and the workers’ compensation scheme.

SIRA, icare and the NSW Government have already acted on most of the recommendations in the review, and in response to recommendations from a Parliament Legislative Council Standing Committee, with the final issues dealing with threshold tests and entitlements.

“If implemented, these recommendations could have flow-on effects to other parts of the system, including the compulsory third party (CTP) scheme, and it is therefore important that the public and stakeholders can provide their views on these matters,” SIRA says.

The consultation paper also seeks feedback on ideas for “modernising and aligning customer experience and support within the workers’ compensation and CTP schemes.”

“Looking to the best features of other personal injury or compensation schemes, or developments in personal injury research, may provide alternative options to shape the design of the future system to improve the experience and outcomes for injured people,” SIRA says.

The consultation closes on November 4. More details are available here.