Tuesday, March 10, 2009

These changes not an accident

The National-led government is moving with all deliberate speed to privatise ACC—the Accident Compensation Corporation, New Zealand’s accident insurance and rehabilitation organisation. They’re just not being honest about it.

National is claiming that the liability to asset ratio soared, implying it’s on the verge of collapse. They don’t want people to realise that it was even worse when National was last in power: The proportion of liabilities that were unfunded was 64 per cent in 1999, when National was last in government, but was only 45 per cent in December 2008 when Labour left office. In other words, the situation isn’t the way National wants us to believe it is.

National’s propaganda said that the situation is so “dire” that auto registration fees might soar by over $200 a year, rehabilitation services will have to be slashed and patients will be charged. But then National announced that they’re increasing auto registration fees by $32 year—roughly 24 percent. They’re also increasing the ACC levy on a litre of petrol by 6 percent.

Now, fellow sceptic, how could it be that a situation is so dire that a fee increase of more than $200 was needed, yet it would be satisfied by a $32 increase? It’s called political manoeuvring. They want hard-pressed Kiwi consumers to think, “Whew! National kept the increase down!” They certainly don’t want them asking, “hang on a minute, why are they raising it at all when things are better now than when National was last in government?”

The cuts to services and increasing costs to patients will force Kiwis who can afford it to take out private accident insurance—on top of ACC levies—in order to be sure of getting rehabilitation treatment, getting it in a timely manner and being able to afford it. That’s National’s goal, even if it means many poorer Kiwis will find accident insurance gone or rehabilitation services prohibitively expensive.

The reason they’re raising the fees, planning service cuts and massive increases to patient fees is simple: They getting it ready to privatise. While they’ve promised not to sell assets in a first term, they also said they planned to “open up” ACC to “competition”. That’s normally called “privatisation”, but National doesn’t want us to focus on their real agenda.

We knew this was coming—they told as much in the campaign. But that doesn’t make it right. This will become among the first things that Labour will have to fix—again—the next time they’re in government.

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