Strategic direction

Jennifer Taylor - Comcare's Chief Executive Officer

This year Comcare focused on a single outcome—supporting participation and productivity through healthy and safe workplaces that minimise the impact of harm. This embodies our core roles of providing leadership in insurance, effective and consistent regulation nationally, excellence in scheme management and design, and efficient and cost effective operations.

The Comcare scheme has seen significant improvement in performance and has shown strong performance in comparison to other schemes. Premium rates are falling, claim frequency is reducing and claim duration after injury is beginning to improve. These trends are having a very positive impact on the financial position of the premium scheme, with the ratio of assets to liabilities increasing steadily and moving us towards a fully funded scheme.

Comcare’s operating result for 2015–16 is a surplus of $253 million—this is $186.7 million higher than budget expectations. This is an excellent result and is further evidence of Comcare’s strengthening financial position. The main factor behind the strong surplus was a reduction in our premium claims provision. Our funding ratio is now at 84 per cent and our surplus will contribute to increasing the funding ratio.

We have now seen an operating surplus for three consecutive years. It has been driven by refined claims management practices with a focus on early intervention, and recovery at and return to work.

Partnerships are central to this—whether it’s working with employers to rectify unsafe work practices and environments, or being part of the national drive to improve mental health in workplaces. It’s through partnerships like this that we test better approaches to safety, rehabilitation and compensation.

The nature of work is changing and the need to find better approaches has never been greater.

Technology and automation are rapidly transforming traditional models of work. Comcare’s Digital Transformation Programme has seen initiatives implemented that have improved our interactions with employees, employers and providers.

In order to drive improvements in workplace safety and recovery from injury and illness we must look at best practice and explore new ideas to create safer, healthier and more productive workplaces. As an organisation with national reach, Comcare is well‑placed to provide leadership in this space.

Scheme performance

Our current efforts in prevention and early intervention are seeing positive results. Through better engagement, we are supporting employers to make their workplaces safer.

The focus on early intervention efforts by employers is helping to improve recovery and return to work outcomes. Employers are detecting the indicators of injury earlier, while addressing more injuries through early intervention before they reach the claims and compensation stage.

The number of new claims received in the Comcare scheme has reduced by 25 per cent over the past five years, driven by a 30 per cent fall in claims for injury and physical disease. The number of psychological injury claims has also started to fall over the past two years. Claim duration has levelled off and is starting to show signs of improvement in the first six months after injury.

Our return to work rates are consistently high, and the incidence of serious claims remains low. Of course, we will continue working towards becoming a zero fatality scheme—no workplace death is ever acceptable.

We acknowledge that although we have seen some positive performance outcomes there is still room for improvement.

Health Benefits of Work

Comcare’s Health Benefits of Work Programme is based on the evidence that focusing on participation in work can drive health and productivity improvements. It aims to improve return to work and work retention of people with injury, illness or disability.

There are opportunities to get people back to good work and good health sooner by focusing on the tangible links between work and health. Evidence clearly shows that the earlier support is given to injured employees, the better the return to work and health outcomes.

Work is part of our identity. It can have a positive impact on our mental health and sense of wellbeing, and it can aid in recovery.

After spending 20 days off work, an employee has a 70 per cent chance of ever returning to work. After 70 days, the likelihood of returning drops to just 35 per cent.

A key element of the Health Benefits of Work Programme is translating and promoting the evidence base for effective return to work, and developing resources to help General Practitioners (GPs) prescribe work as part of rehabilitation and recovery.

One of these resources is a new medical certificate of capacity that Comcare is rolling out for all GPs in Canberra and the surrounding region. It aims to help return ill and injured employees back to work sooner by shifting the focus to what someone can do at work, rather than what they can’t do.

The certificate encourages GPs to consider options like a graduated return to work or modified duties. GPs are also encouraged to engage with the employer through case conferences to improve the opportunities for an early return to work.

Outlook

The Comcare 2016–17 Corporate Plan builds on the direction we began in 2015–16. Our four business priorities (purposes) remain unchanged—leading insurer, national regulator, excellence in scheme management and design, and efficient and cost‑effective corporate management.