Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don't fix what isn't broken. FFS.

In New Zealand politics the phrase "the more things change, the more some things stay the same" is perhaps nowhere more relevant than people wanting to try and 'fix' New Zealand's national treasure that isn't broken: ACC. You only really have to have a quick look at the last three years to see this in action, while those who've been alive longer and paying attention for longer have had to watch it since the 90's.

In the news today the government announced it is considering raising ACC levies just months after it lowered it them. And evidence gathered by a Hazel Armstrong indicates that this is being done by Nick Smith purely to 'level the playing field' with insurance companies who are getting some entry into the work account starting in October.
So basically ACC levies are low and cheap but apparently we need to make them more expensive so we can make room for some private insurance competition. Awesome for those insurance companies I guess but annoying for everyone else who seems pretty happy with ACC. PriceWaterhouseCooper, the nearest thing to an independent body we can get I suppose, was pretty happy to call it the best system of its kind in the world as recently as 2008.
A quick cycle back in time to 2009 makes this talk about levy cuts and levy rises to make room for competition seem rather strange. Two years ago according to the government ACC was in a horrible deficit and insolvent.
ACC, which has consistently performed among the world's best in health outcomes and ensuring comprehensive coverage for all New Zealanders since 1974, was apparently in such dire straits in 2009 that one young ACTer proclaiming to fight for less government and against monopolies had a solution to fix the whole thing!

"Liberty Scott" boldly proclaimed: "The monopoly has failed miserably, once again. The measures National are announcing are patching up a system that is breaking". The young libertard’s solution was pretty elegant and simple: bust up the whole thing, or as he put it "move fast ... to individualize the whole system". Free the markets! (and also some horrendously complex stuff in practice about grandfathering in existing claimants. Or even worse tendering them out because of course we need free market competition to take up a work burden that doesn't currently exist).

So yeah. What do we make of this? Well Liberty Scott does look like a muppet 3 years later doesn't he. But what 'Liberty Scott' represents isn't just some phenomenon that looks stupid recently, nor is it constrained to sub-par blogs. Neo-liberalism has a storied tradition of this type of stuff and it has broken more than a few things since the 80’s to get a quick fix for a few people.

Unfortunately the tradition of trying to break stuff so a few rich mates can get their fix seems to be continuing from Nick Smith to Judith Collins in 2011 - although admittedly not as drastic as Liberty Scott’s proposed 2009 solution.

But also since 2009 then there have been some fantastic changes. Those changes of course being that ACT got individualized down to one MP and NZFirst is back in action working hard to not fix things which aren't broken. I'm glad to say to Liberty Scott that NZFirst has a monopoly on really understanding the value behind our public healthcare system and his bullshit is laughable.


  1. Small query: Is it possible that ACC levies are going up, not because the govt want's to privatise everything, but because medical treatment is getting more expensive? Factors such as an ageing population who are not paying tax, more people paying more tax to superannuation, medical breakthroughs in technology )which makes it more expensive) and of course the idea that every individual should collectively pay for others. Do you believe that any of the above reasons may also be playing a part in consideration of raising the levy?

    1. one rather strongly suspects that the factors you cite were also at play when Smith decided to DROP levies last year.

      I'm sure that if these were exerting influence upon Smith, he would have cited them; and, more to the point, ACC wouldn't be building up ever-higher surpluses.

      If levies were going up simply because costs of treatment were going up, wouldn't it be a bit odd for the Government to be demanding ACC pay central government from its expanding reserves?
      Wouldn't these go into the possible additional costs you cite?

      The more compelling reasoning, as we've already pointed out, is that they're attempting to replicate the "profit motive" which a private sector insurer possesses ... by taking away money from the Claims Corporation.

  2. ROTFLMAO. Some points to make which have escaped you, probably because of youth, exuberance and inexperience:

    PWC "PriceWaterhouseCooper, the nearest thing to an independent body we can get I suppose". Really? You do need to learn a bit about the world of management consultancy. The last Labour Government had ACC commission PWC to prepare this report. PWC is not known for producing reports that criticise its clients or call for changes in public policy that would see the client abolished. It's the height of naivety to think PWC operated in some independent vacuum. It doesn't. Management consultants don't. I should know, I have been dealing with them and working with them for over a decade.

    I am not an ACTer. I haven't been a member of ACT for 14 years. I'm certainly not going to be joining now that it is led by someone more closely aligned to your Dear Leader.

    I didn't write that article primarily because of ACC's cycle of financial troubles (which go back decades as politicians fiddle), but because I believe the system is fundamentally flawed. I reject its simple premise that it is right for the state to compensate people for being injured, regardless of fault.

    You claim the ACC is among the world's best. Well when you have the only fully socialised accident insurance scheme on the planet, the comparator is rather poor. You see no other country pays people compensation regardless of fault. No other country explicitly legally prohibits the right to sue for personal injury by accident. No one else compensates everyone as if they are all the same and the value of their loss is equivalent. The university student rendered blind and unable to pursue a career as a surgeon doesn't get compensated for missing out on a career, but rather compensated for being less of a student. It irons everyone flat, compensating the drunk driver for maiming himself as well as the person he mowed down. Do you know what torts are? Have you bothered investigating why other countries have not copied the New Zealand model?

    You claim I "look a muppet 3 years later". Why? What I advocated hasn't been implemented and you've claimed nothing to prove I am wrong, with no shred of evidence. You've instead engaged in juvenile polemicising with Americanised spelling, substandard grammar, punctuation and sentence construction.

    I couldn't care less about "rich mates getting a fix". That's left wing conspiracy talk. I haven't the slightest interest in that (although no one supporting ACC works for free). What I do care about is people having choice. I want people to be able to choose a different insurer to cover themselves if they have a car accident, or an accident anywhere else. I want people to be able to insure against medical misadventure or to sue for it. Why? Because nobody should be forced to pay for a state monopoly system that doesn't provide a public good.

    One example is a case I know of medical misadventure where some joint surgery went badly wrong, but ACC claims that the damage was pre-existing - before the surgery. ACC refuses to pay for the surgery to fix it, so the victim goes on a waiting list to join the masses waiting for "free" health care. To confront ACC requires spending money on lawyers and appeals. Why should this person have to choose between confronting this monopoly (which doesn't care if it fails him) or paying to get his shoulder fixed because of something that isn't his fault?

    Why are you afraid of competition?

    Finally if achievement of success for you is measured by "working hard to not fix things which aren't broken" then good luck with that. Nothing quite as brave as people campaigning for the status quo.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. My bad for the entirely late reply, I never got a notification of this hilarious response.

      "PWC is not known for producing reports that criticise its clients or call for changes in public policy that would see the client abolished."
      - Baseless, citation needed.

      "I didn't write that article primarily because of ACC's cycle of financial troubles (which go back decades as politicians fiddle), but because I believe the system is fundamentally flawed. I reject its simple premise that it is right for the state to compensate people for being injured, regardless of fault."
      - Changing the goalposts here. I am completely uninterested in your stuff about it being a no-fault system when your original post was entirely about its apparent "monopoly" financing failures.

      "Do you know what torts are? Have you bothered investigating why other countries have not copied the New Zealand model?"
      - Of course, its exactly why I think ACC is a great system. Im well aware of how few people ever get the help they need from the tort system. Are you blind to America's tort system excesses?

      ACC was compared against other insurance schemes FYI, not on some basis of being the only no-fault scheme of its kind in the world.

      You do look like a muppet 3 years later. You advocated like a histrionic fool that the whole thing was crumbling apart financially and needed to be completely individualized when its clear that wasn't the case.

      Now you are back three years later whining about a different ideological problem about the tort system on the whole and some irrelevant emotional anecdotes.

      BTW deleted the earlier comment to repost this and fix a few formatting errors

      What it makes clear is how utterly unfit you are to really make comment on public policy that affects peoples lives. You are in it for the discussion, debate, Ayn Rand wankery whatever.

      Defending the status quo is brave when it helps people like ACC does and when we have to defend it against muppets.

  3. This is worthy of a response given how little of what I have said was actually addressed. Still, it is fun to debate:

    1. Nobody can cite an example of the absence of something. The onus of proof is on you to prove that a management consultancy produces reports independent from the one paying it. Look forward to you finding that report. I've been in this sector for some years now. It doesn't happen. Your party is often making insinuations that if a firm is funded by someone else it buys influence, is it not credible to believe it happens with consultants as well?

    2. Indeed, I argued the financial position was at risk, it isn't now, but the long term situation remains questionable particularly with an aging population. Your sole measure of success appears to be financial viability, I have others, which you have ignored.

    3. The strawman of citing the US, which is a typical response of just about anyone on the left, is hardly worthwhile. I didn't hold it up as a model (your Dear Leader uses the same strawman for anyone wanting a mixed model in healthcare, without citing Singapore, Germany or Australia). The UK also has a vibrant tort sector yet has rejected (as has the rest of the world) the ACC model. No ACC defenders have a clear explanation as to why the "envy of the world" is rejected by the rest of the OECD, including those with larger state sectors and welfare states.

    4. I'm amused that someone from NZ First talks of "irrelevant emotional anecdotes" when your Leader's speeches over the years are peppered with such things. Your own discourse is full of emotional hyperboles like "defending the status quo is brave when it helps people like ACC does". Based on what? Any counterfactuals? Is this ACC saying this? You don't think there are many thousands of people unhappy with ACC?

    You never give a reason why competition is bad in this area. You never give a reason why people should accept paying into a system that by their own judgment, fails them. They are just mean to embrace the joy and satisfaction of a state owned monopoly because you say it "helps people", and so individual cases that don't worship this system are to be ignored.

    My point is rather simple. If ACC is so wonderful, then it wont be afraid of competition because those paying for it will realise this. If you think that it will be undermined, because some paying for it will get a better deal elsewhere, then you're saying that some who pay are overpaying and this is "fair". Why do you know better than they do?

    Why don't you extend this embracing of state monopolies across the board?