Will Comcare overhaul help ease premium costs for agencies?

It’s the reset agency heads have been demanding, as Comcare premiums continued to rise, now Employment Minister Eric Abetz says his Comcare reforms will bring the scheme up to date and into line with other jurisdictions, cut costs and improve outcomes for injured workers.

Legislative amendments hit federal Parliament yesterday with the aim to get injured Commonwealth public servants back to work sooner, reduce compensation for non-work related injuries, improve treatment outcomes and bring expensive Comcare premiums back under control.

Informed by a string of reviews in recent years and changes in other jurisdictions, the amendments to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act would cut a combined $50 million from premiums paid to Comcare each year by other federal agencies, according to Employment Minister Eric Abetz.

The changes aim to limit claims for injuries and ailments that the employment did not significantly contribute to. The scope of “reasonable administrative action” — under which claims can be excluded — would be widened to align it with the legal definition of workplace bullying, and rehabilitation requirements modified to emphasise “vocational” rather than medical goals. New eligibility criteria would apply to “designated injuries” like heart attacks, strokes and spinal disc ruptures, and the threshold for acceptance of “perception-based disease claims” is to be increased.

There are provisions to speed up claims and enhance information gathering powers of both relevant authorities and Comcare. Provisional payments of up to $5000 would be possible before a claim is made. Lump sum payments would be increased for severe or multiple injuries but also reduced for some minor injuries.

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