ACC and Alternative Medicine
The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) is part of the healthcare system in New Zealand. To quote themselves on their purpose, they provide “comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand”. To put it simply, if you hurt yourself in an accident in New Zealand, ACC will likely pay for all treatment you require to recover from that injury.
They are not strictly part of the government, but they are a Crown organisation set up via the Accident Compensation Act 2001, and they are controlled directly by the government through an ACC minister. At the time of writing, the current ACC minister is Judith Collins. The ACC is funded publicly through various avenues, including levies on people’s earnings.
Please can you tell me, for each of the last 10 years, how much the
ACC has paid out for each of the following services:
On the 20th of May 2014, the ACC responded to Gold’s OIA request with this information:
The following table shows the total amount (in dollars, excl GST) ACC has paid under Regulations for Osteopathic, Acupuncture and Chiropractic services for the last 10 years.
Financial Year $ cost Osteopathy Acupuncture Chiropractic Total 2003/04 6,210,642 4,424,458 8,056,875 18,691,975 2004/05 6,767,849 5,452,119 8,007,011 20,226,979 2005/06 7,237,766 5,954,239 7,947,342 21,139,347 2006/07 8,038,676 7,616,042 8,734,453 24,389,171 2007/08 10,082,351 12,392,494 12,007,580 34,482,415 2008/09 10,945,880 15,761,415 13,173,902 39,881,197 2009/10 10,470,269 15,605,042 11,804,095 37,879,406 2010/11 9,802,401 16,225,902 10,832,912 36,861,215 2011/12 10,029,446 16,958,808 11,654,292 38,642,546 2012/13 10,964,806 19,961,329 12,312,832 43,238,967
Naturopath is not an ACC funded service; therefore your request for this information is declined under section 18(e) of the Act, as the document alleged to contain the information requested does not exist or cannot be found.
Here’s that information on a chart, excluding the totals. As you can see, spending on acupuncture in particular has increased dramatically over the last decade:
This OIA request was a follow-up to an earlier request from Mark Honeychurch regarding essentially the same information. The response to Gold’s request included a new column for 2012/13, as well as the “Total” column although that isn’t strictly new information. Also, the information from Gold’s request seems to have been a catalyst for an article published on the 24th of May 2014 on stuff.co.nz: Big Bill for Alternative Health.
This article did a little more digging, asking questions of doctors, acupuncturists, and the ACC. I highly recommend you read it. The most interesting part to me was this:
In 2009, then-ACC Minister Nick Smith questioned the ballooning ACC bill for complementary treatments and said their effectiveness would be reviewed.
Since then, the cost has risen another $5m but ACC said no review ever took place.
ACC Minister Judith Collins did not answer questions about the review.
It is not mentioned in this article, but I have known for some time that the ACC has a document published on their website entitled Acupuncture Treatment Profiles. The document describes itself as:
a valuable guide in the application of protocols that are included within a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) diagnosis, providing important information that assists an acupuncturist’s treatment strategy.
This appears to be an official ACC document, to be used by ACC-registered acupuncturists to determine appropriate methods of diagnosis and treatment that are approved for ACC funding. However, having a look through it one can’t help but notice egregiously wrong and pseudoscientific statements such as the following:
- Acupuncture… Relieves pain by treating stagnation of Qi and Blood in the affected areas and channels
- Qi is the vital force of life which… Is the material substrate of the Universe
- Brain… Is considered to be the same in substance as marrow
- the Kidney produces marrow
I shudder at the thought that the ACC levies I pay are partly used to fund this. It seems to me that it’s high time the ACC carried out a review of the evidence behind these therapies that it funds, so problems like this can be rooted out and dealt with. Publicly funded healthcare should be based on science, after all.