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‘Disgusting’ Medicare bungle delays compo refunds to injury victims

Victims of sexual assault and workplace injuries are being forced to wait for months to get compensation from Medicare, with one man claiming an incredible $67,000 is being “hoarded” from him.

Victims of sexual assault and workplace injuries are being forced to wait up to seven months to receive their full compensation in a “disgusting” Medicare bungle.

Queenslanders with personal injury claims have been locked out of tens of thousands of dollars of their own money as the government agency fails to release vital documents on time.

Wamuran father of five Leon McNeill, 56, is furious, accusing Medicare of “hoarding” $67,000 of his money.

“I’m pissed off, and the laziness of government employees who basically keep telling me ‘bad luck’ is disgusting,” Mr McNeill said.

“We relied on that money, so it’s been really hard.”

By law, following a personal injury claim any Medicare benefits paid must be returned by the claimant, however, when a claim settles without the benefits statement, the insurer advances 10 per cent of the settlement figure to Medicare.

Medicare has three months to calculate the refund – Mr O’Neill’s benefits totalled $8000 – and refund the remaining money to the claimant.

Joshua Brown, senior associate at McNamara Law, said there were potentially thousands of Queenslanders being “left in the lurch”.

“I have no idea what Medicare has been doing with all that money, but certainly these claimants have not had the benefit of it, which they need as a result of reduced earning capacity or being unable to work at all,” Mr Brown said.

“These delays by Medicare have greatly added to many claimants’ suffering.”

THE LONG WAIT

A sample of McNamara Law cases exceeding the three-month period for Medicare to repay claimants’ money.
Feb 22, 2021: $66,438.42 withheld for Medicare bills of $925.90; released June 15, 2021.
Mar 22: $8000 withheld for $258.05; released July 2.
Mar 22: $4721.60 withheld for $662.65; released July 1.
Jun 21: $3000 withheld for $834.40; released October 8.
Jul 1: $2500 withheld for $152.55; awaiting refund.
Jul 28: $28,355.81 withheld for $3,443.30; awaiting refund.
Aug 26: $67,038.36 withheld for $8,018.20; awaiting refund.
Sept 15: $2150 withheld for $598.80, awaiting refund.
Sep 28: $2300 withheld for $533.25; awaiting refund.

Mr Brown said along with Mr McNeill’s case, which should have been finalised in November, a sexual assault victim had been without $66,000 (to cover $926 in benefits) for far too long.

“It is unacceptable for Medicare to be dragging the chain.”

Mr McNeill said while he received a sizeable payout following his April 2019 workplace injury – which led to six surgeries and rendered him unemployable – he invested most of it so couldn’t readily access it.

“My family needed that $67,000, and if Medicare is behind on paying me back, they’re behind on others too.”

Hank Jongen, general manager of Services Australia which runs Medicare, said the agency was willing to follow up directly with people impacted by delays.

“We encourage anyone in exceptional circumstances or experiencing severe financial hardship to contact us so we can prioritise the processing of their claim,” Mr Jongen said.

“We continually review our processes to ensure timely processing of claims and to provide the best support to customers.”

Ref: Courier Mail article published on 28 January 2022, author Kylie Lang.

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