AIA CEO Damien Mu (Photo: Supplied)
AIA CEO Damien Mu (Photo: Supplied)

The chief executive of AIA Australia, Damien Mu, says the insurer will keep pressing for early-intervention reforms in the workplace that have been stymied by a parliamentary committee’s opposition.

Speaking to Investment Magazine from the sidelines of the pan-Asian life company’s third-annual AIA Vitality Summit, Mu said “clearly he was disappointed” that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services had rejected a proposal to allow insurers to pay for medical costs for rehabilitation and prevention of illnesses in the workplace.

“I understand the environment and we cannot be naive to that,” he said. “I welcome any review, whether it’s by ASIC or others, to come and look at what we’re doing and work with us to develop the appropriate guidelines.

“We can demonstrate and give confidence to government and others that this is the right thing to do and we will be responsible to take that on.”

Last month, the PJC rejected a proposal by the Financial Services Council that its chief executive, Sally Loane, said would “allow insurers to fund a range of treatments to help sick and injured people return to wellness sooner”.

In a report, the PJC said the FSC’s proposal “has no equity of access and no accountability” and urged ASIC to undertake a “thorough investigation” of the use of inhouse rehabilitation services in the life insurance industry.

Mu said he didn’t want to hear the word no “when it comes to helping people”, adding that AIA has a program that assists people with their return to work after illness or injury. It has been in place since 2011 and Mu said it had so far helped 1039 Australians return to work.

“This is intuitively the right thing to do, so what we need to do is hear it, be mindful and respectful and face into it…and our doors are open,” he said.

The PJC, in rejecting the early-intervention proposal, had focused on cultural issues within the life insurance industry rather than considering consumers, Loane said last month.

“We accept that there are a range of issues the life insurance industry must address – and we are working to confront these problems – but the FSC believes the PJC has not given due consideration to early intervention on its own merit,” she said. “The industry remains convinced of the benefits of early intervention for vulnerable Australians in need of medical treatment, for hospital waiting lists and for the Federal Budget bottom line. We will continue to advocate for this reform, which will [help] Australians return to wellness faster and is a policy we believe is in the national interest.”

Mu said mental health and the doubling of diabetes and obesity were among the biggest issues for the government today.

“We have to address these,” he said. “What are all the other things for if we can’t ensure that our nation, which is blessed, doesn’t help its population with their health?”

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