RABS Bill certainly no better than RAF

Pretoria News · 18 Jun 2018 · Gert Nel

THE Parliamentary Committee on Transport (PCOT) recently passed a motion in support of the Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) Bill after three weeks of public submissions by various stakeholders.

The object of the RABS Bill is to provide an effective benefit scheme in respect of bodily injury or death caused by or arising from road accidents, which benefit scheme is reasonable, equitable, affordable and sustainable, exclude from civil liability certain persons responsible for bodily injuries or death caused by or arising from road accidents (common law right abandoned) and the establishment of the Administrator.

The DoT responded that none of the comments made by various presenters, which included, among others, the Western Cape Department of Traffic and Public Works, APRAV (Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims) the Medico Legal Society of South Africa, LSNP, LSSA and the Actuarial Society of South Africa will be taken into account.

The following major defects were pointed out in the proposed new RABS Bill by the presenters, which the DoT wilfully ignores, choosing rather to gamble and impose the bill in the face of certain failure: a key element of the bill is to address the victims’ need on a “no-fault” basis, as opposed to full compensation under the current Road Accident Fund (RAF) dispensation.

In order to achieve this goal all benefits are drastically reduced and general damages are abandoned (saving of 25%) in order to make the system affordable.

RABS is said to provide medical care to all road accident victims and provide instant income to the unemployed and in so doing effectively “incentivising” being involved in an accident.

John is the driver of a vehicle and travels with his wife and two children to their home. A drunk, unemployed driver called Fred skips a red light and collides with John’s vehicle, killing John and seriously injuring his wife and two children. John earned above the statutory “cap” of plus/minus R248 000.00 a year and has medical aid covering himself and his family.

Under RABS, John’s family will receive no benefits from the RABS Administrator in spite of having contributed R1.94c for each litre of petrol.

Fred, who caused the accident, immediately qualifies for an income based upon the Average Annual National Income (AANI) and will receive medical treatment and rehabilitation at a contracted service provider (or so it is said).

The RABS bill represents a sensitive balance between affordability and addressing the needs of the road accident victim.

In fact the scale is so sensitive that the bill does not allow for any inflationary adjustments and benefits will be under constant review to allow for affordability, not affording any financial security nor financial rehabilitation in the form of life-enhancing benefits to the injured victim.

The provision of quality healthcare is a primary function of RABS, and as such, a single medical tariff is such an integral part of the RABS bill, the RABS cannot, reasonably function and/ or deliver the medical benefits offered in terms of the bill without the tariff having been secured.

To date no medical tariff had been secured nor has the DoT made any effort to secure its own national contracted healthcare service provider network.

In the absence of a medical tariff it is impossible to place a price tag on RABS, yet the DoT is adamant that their actuarial calculations, which are not subject to peer review, shows a saving of only 20% on their best case scenario;

Based upon the actuaries’ worst case scenario RABS can be 146% more expensive than the RAF system.

The PCOT is seemingly oblivious to the fact that if the bill is challenged and general damages is retained RABS will immediately cost 25% more, 5% more than the current system. RABS would be required to administrate a no-fault based medical aid on top of the already strained RAF administration.

The DoT failed to explain how many additional personnel they would have to employ or how RABS would be able to cope with a work load of up to three times more than the present system.

In fact the DoT is confident the administration of RABS will not cost a cent more than the current system which is quite suspect having regard to the additional workload, under no-fault, which if it is to be done right, will require an extraordinary administrative effort, something the taxpayer or road crash victim had not seen nor experienced under the RAF.

The PCOT will soon be embarking on a series of provincial “consultations” and members of the public are invited to add their voices and opinions at these meetings.

Gert Nel is a legal expert on Road Accident Fund cases.