Workers Compensation Scheme

Mr CLAYTON BARR ( Cessnock ) ( 18:17 ): Full of anguish, despair and hopelessness, Lucy recently contacted my office over the treatment she has received from the insurance company that is responsible for managing her workers compensation claim. Four years ago Lucy suffered a workplace injury. Her shoulder gave way due to repetitive lifting and she was unable to return to her pre-injury duties. She underwent surgery and attended weekly physiotherapy appointments in an effort to improve. Lucy was committed to pursuing any avenue that would lead to her recovery. All she wanted to do was return to her job that she enjoyed enormously.

The recovery was repetitive and tiring, but Lucy ensured that she never missed an appointment and she completed all the additional exercises. Her goal was to return to work, and Lucy was certain she would achieve that; nothing would stand in her way. But, in early 2017, Lucy received the devastating news that nobody wants to hear. She had cancer. The diagnosis was a blow to Lucy and her young family. They had not fully recovered from the issues arising from her workplace injury. Now they had another fight on their hands.

Naturally, Lucy threw all her energy into her cancer treatment. She attended many appointments with specialists and doctors, had stints in hospital and underwent chemotherapy. At the same time, she was trying to keep her family happy. She wanted to assure them that everything would be okay. Understandably, during this time Lucy’s attendance at her physiotherapy appointments was not the high priority it had once been. Her new priority was—quite simply—saving her life. She no longer had the energy to attend her weekly physiotherapy appointments, due in no small part to her chemotherapy and other treatments.

The insurance company managing Lucy’s injury began to question her absence, even though she had already explained her cancer. But it was not interested in hearing Lucy’s reasoning. It could not understand that her cancer treatment took precedence over her injury-focused physiotherapy appointments. The insurance company wanted to get her off its books and back to work. It was not interested in the circumstances and believed Lucy’s absence from physiotherapy appointments meant her injury had healed and she no longer required them and would be fine to return to work. This was certainly not the case, but it did not stop the insurance company from punishing Lucy. The company reduced Lucy’s weekly payments to $1 and stopped the ongoing funding for treatments required for her injury, such as physiotherapy. The good news is that late last year Lucy overcame her cancer battle. But her new battle with the insurance company has inflicted serious financial stress on her family. They have had to sell the family home, enforce strict spending habits on their children, and turn to family and friends to find extra money to pay their utility bills.

This is another example of the morally corrupt nature of some insurance companies in the workers compensation scheme. I have been contacted by many constituents who have been treated poorly by their insurer, but it is hard to find an insurer that has acted more poorly than Lucy’s. Her case highlights the behaviours of some of these insurance companies and the fact that the workers compensation legislation as it currently stands allows insurance companies to conduct themselves in a manner that is not consistent with the intent and spirit of the legislation. There is no recourse taken against these insurance companies. Lucy came to me seeking some assistance, direction and empathy. Her treatment by her insurer is cruel and incomprehensible. I have taken Lucy’s issue up with the Minister for Finance, Services and Property in the hope that he may intervene in this issue to ensure that Lucy is provided with the support and treatment she so desperately requires and deserves. She has had a challenging 12 months and all the insurance company could do now is show some decency and humanity.