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Insights

Health Bulletin

RK Health Insights 14 June 2017

The latest insights from our Health Law team.

In this edition:

Learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Health sector here.

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NIB misled customers, says ACCC

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The ACCC has alleged that private health insurer NIB misled customers by representing that several of its policies covered eye procedures with no out-of-pocket expenses. It claims that NIB’s customers did incur out-of-pocket expenses for eye procedures after NIB failed to notify them of the decision to remove the procedures from its MediGap Scheme in 2015.

The allegations relate to multiple breaches under the Australian Consumer Law involving ten NIB policies, including its Basic Plus, Premier Plus and Young at Heart Top policies. With NIB potentially liable for $1.1 million per breach, the ACCC expects fines to run into the millions.

This is the second case brought by the ACCC against NIB in the last two years. The ACCC brought proceedings against NIB in June last year for similar breaches relating to NIB limiting benefits for in-hospital pathology and radiology. Both cases remain ongoing.

More information can be found here.

Cancer compensation for firefighters

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The Victorian Government has announced and introduced the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017 which will give presumptive compensation rights to professional and volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

The scheme will be administered through WorkSafe and compensation will be awarded to firefighters for 10 years post-service. The Bill responds to several medical and scientific studies linking the use of certain chemicals prevalent in firefighting with cancer. As the law currently sits, firefighters bear the onus to prove this link when attempting to claim compensation.

The Victorian Government has also announced that they will create a dedicated assistance fund to support the very small minority of firefighters who may not fit the criteria under the scheme.

Read the media releases here and here. For more information about the environmental impacts of certain chemicals used in fire-fighting, read RK’s latest Local Government alert here.

Draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill released in NSW

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A consultation draft was released by a cross-party working group for the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (NSW) (“Bill”) in May 2017. Under the Bill, terminally ill persons ordinarily resident in New South Wales and over the age of 25 could end their lives with medical assistance. Patients must, within “reasonable medical judgment”, be expected to die from their terminal illness within 12 months and be experiencing “extreme pain, suffering or physical incapacity”. The Bill would allow the terminally ill person to administer the substance themselves or have a nominated person administer the substance.

The Bill contains a number of safeguards. For example, the decision must be approved by two medical practitioners (one of whom must be a specialist) and the patient must be assessed by a psychiatrist or psychologist to ensure they have decision-making capacity. The Bill also proposes a cooling-off period of 48 hours after a final decision has been made and being provided assistance. Family of the person may also challenge patient eligibility in the Supreme Court.

The New South Wales Parliament is expected to vote on the Bill in August 2017 after the consultation period ends.

It is expected that Victoria will also release a draft voluntary assisted dying bill later this year. You can read more about the current status of assisted dying in Victoria in our RK Health Alert here.