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FURTHER change to WA’s workers’ compensation system is likely as public comments on two independent reviews roll in.

The independent reviews into medical and associated costs and insurance arrangements are in response to issues raised in the 1999 Pearson Review of the workers’ compensation system.

The public comment period for the insurance arrangements review closed on August 4, while the medical and associated costs review comment period closes on August 25.

Industrial Relations Minister Cheryl Edwardes will decide what changes to WA’s workers’ compensation system need to be made – either administratively or legislatively.

The insurance arrangements review examined the current insurance structure, supporting regulatory framework, opportunities to stimulate competition in the insurance marketplace and the role of insurance brokers.

The review, chaired by Campbell Ansell, found employers from small to medium and high-risk businesses faced rising premium costs and an inability to forecast or budget for their workers’ compensation costs.

It recommended creating an independent regulatory authority together with greater transparency and alternative insurance options.

The review did not recommend removing insurance brokers from the system – sure to be a relief to small business owners.

Instead, it recommended making insurance brokers operate more transparently through means such as providing employers with a copy of the original renewal notice from the insurer so the employer knows which insurance company is representing them.

The medical and associated costs review chaired by John Knowles made 25 recommendations and raised concerns that not all key parties understood the requirements of the system or their responsibilities.

The review states that some medical practitioners do not even consider employers have a role in managing workplace injuries.

Increases in treatment were found to place extra pressure on employers’ premium rates.

There was evidence of 352 claimants with strain and sprain injuries that received more than 100 physiotherapy services each.

Australian Medical Association Council of General Practitioners chairman Bernard Pearn-Rowe said the review raised some very good points.

“We accept some changes need to be made,” Dr Pearn-Rowe said.

“However, workers’ compensation plays a very small part in most GP business, in many cases just 3 per cent.

“It is very easy for GPs to forget they have a different role when they change from a family doctor to a workers’ compensation practitioner.

“I think the report highlights the major differences between workers’ compensation practice and standard practice.”

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