Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Kerre Woodham: ACC needs accountability

When I broke my arm just before the end of the year, I was very grateful to our health system for picking up the pieces, quite literally. They found a bit that was missing at the top of my arm that they weren't expecting, and put me back together again, and it's pretty much back to normal.

I'm very, very grateful for the skill, the ability and the kindness of North Shore Hospital, and I was grateful too for the part funding of the first few physio and acupuncture appointments. Those appointments have made a huge difference in getting back mobility, even though the taxpayer-funded part is now over, I will keep up the appointments because I can see the difference they're making. I'm grateful, too, to the taxpayer for the partial funding of those first physio appointments.

I never needed to use taxpayer funded taxes, though. While I couldn't drive, I found Uber’s far more convenient. I also had lots of friends in town who were lovely, and if I had to pay for Uber’s myself, well so be it - that is the price for convenience. Still, plenty of people are using taxis who are on ACC, or are they? Who would know?

ACC spends $35 million a year on taxis for injured clients, but in a Herald story today, the ACC can see they haven't conducted any audit of the companies that provide the taxi services. Because of course, no one would be rorting the system, would they? Never in the history of ACC has anyone rorted the system? Remember back in 2009? I remember all the hoo-hah about that.

The National government introduced a partial charge on physio visits that we're still paying today, because costs are blown out exponentially. The co-charging scheme was introduced in 2009 because Nick Smith, who was ACC minister at the time, said the free physiotherapy service introduced in 2004 had got out of control in just five years. Costs had gone from $58 million per year to $139 million in 2008. And since the service had become free, the number of clients in higher socioeconomic areas using physios had occurred disproportionately. Fix that golf swing, put it on ACC, go to the physio. Back giving you jip? Put it on ACC. Some of the physio costs were extraordinary, so Nick Smith said I smell a rort when I see one, visits will be limited, and you'll have to pay part charges after a certain time.

In 2008/2009 physiotherapy cost ACC Levy payers $144 million. That was back then. So, we've seen that any system without checks and balances can and will be rorted. Uber has the ability, the boss was showing us, to let them know all the details of staff travel by the month - where they went, what time, how much it cost, what the company business was, all that sort of thing. Basically, an audit on the spot.

I accept the taxi companies don't have that facility and not everyone needing transport through ACC has a smartphone or access to Uber, but surely the least we can expect is an audit of the taxi companies. You cannot tell me that all that money is spent, is being spent wisely and well and on people who need the service. I'd love to hear your experience of it. Numerous complaints have been made about the service. They don't turn up, they turn up late, if they turn up at all meaning some people are missing appointments because they're standing around waiting for their taxi. How many of you gave up on taxis as I did before I even started, and just used Ubers in the cities? It's easy enough.

Can we just have a little bit of accountability and responsibility when it comes to taxpayers' money, please? That's all I ask.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.

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