Monday, 22 December 2008

I like ACC

As Mike Moreu's rather gruesome cartoon suggests, the government's announced increase in employees' ACC levies suggests they're setting out to make the Corporation unpopular - so we won't miss it when it's privatised. The government's use of urgency to pass a range of legislation - just before Xmas, making it harder for the public to make any organised objections - gives me the unsettling feeling that the rug could be pulled out from ACC (and God only knows what else) with very little warning.

Well, I like ACC. It may be an imperfect beast, like the husband who leaves his socks on the floor despite being asked a million times not to, but the prospect of being without its loyal and comforting presence is daunting.

Here's why I like ACC:

- It insures unpaid workers (eg, mums) who have little or no income and might be unable to afford private accident insurance.

- ACC has a brief to protect the public's health. Private insurers don't. ACC runs campaigns telling us how to avoid accidents and injuries. Private insurers don't care.

- Private providers have to create a profit for their shareholders. Profit is maximised by paying out on as few claims as possible.

- ACC doesn't suffer from that paradox of private insurers: competition encourages them to drop their premiums, but the less they collect in premiums the less they can afford to pay out in claims. Competition creates a worse insurance product, not a better one.

- The no-fault compensation offered by ACC replaces our 'right' to sue each other, which sadly includes the right to behave like litigious arses and line the pockets of lawyers.

In the last 25 or so years, privatisation has been justified in the name of enhanced consumer choice. But choice is only as valuable as the options you have to choose from. I'd rather put up with a state monopoly that more or less does the job than be free to choose between a wide range of shit private providers.


Daniel said...

ACC is frankly a work of genius and one of the best things about NZ as compared to Australia or the US.
Pretty much all my hobbies and socialising revolves around non-profit clubs and activities. Here in Aus those clubs have to deal with often expensive public liability insurance. Nice, safe, non-contact activities, but because of the litigation culture still require insurance.
ACC is VERY expensive but it is cheaper than the alternatives. Less court costs, less Insurance profits, better security, less need to have someone to blame for every accident, and less need for councils to close public parks due to insurance costs.

Hugh said...

While I agree with the overall thrust of this, I've got to say I really question whether ACC's public health campaigns are that effective. It's good that ACC has a brief to protect public health, but I'm not sure this is the best manifestation of it.

Jennifer said...

As an Australian, I've often looked enviously over the Tasman at the ACC. To me, it seems a good thing that NZ has trampolines in children's playgrounds. But I suspect that NZ society is, as a whole, more risk averse about things like that - fewer children's injuries in Australia, but less fun.

Make Tea Not War said...

What ACC is now is very far removed from what it was originally intended to be. Somehow, the idea of workers compensation which should be right for somebody who has been wronged/injured has been transformed into something that is more like a benefit with a whole lot of brutalizing bureaucracy attached to claiming it. I don't think privatising it would fix it anyway, in fact, I went to a presentation a couple of weeks ago where someone had actually crunched the numbers & it looked like privatisation would make it much more expensive- but I don't think we should be at all smug about it in its present form

Anna said...

I wouldn't necessarily vouch for the success of ACC's advertising campaigns, but they do other good stuff in the health promotion area - ie teaming up with other government agencies to promote falls prevention amongst old people. Of course, you'd never get that from a private provider.