Government Announces Changes

The government has announced its proposed changes to Ontario Auto Insurance. The link below, has as much detail as currently available. As always, the devil will be in the detail, and will emerge as the panel and consultations gets into gear, and through our discussions with Finance and FSCO.

Highlights from the release – some ORA comments/notes in italics:

  1. Implementing standard treatment plans for common collision injuries such as sprains, strains and whiplash, changing the emphasis from cash payouts to ensuring appropriate care for victims – No specific reference here to ‘minor injuries’ but this is likely some version of the CTI; we’re hopeful that this language of ‘sprains, strains, whiplash’ means that brain injuries are no longer included. The intention is to have the first of these plans in place by spring 2018.
  2. Reducing diagnosis and treatment by instituting independent examination centres to assess more serious auto collision injuries – During the live stream reference was made to a bidding process for the ‘select few’ assessors who are held to higher standards, credible, independent and neutral. It is noteworthy that there is no mention of these being hospital based. We will hope and lobby for these assessors to have relevant rehab-related skills and knowledge. We are seeking clarification as to when in the claims’ life cycle these IEs will take place.
  3. Cracking down on fraud by launching the province’s first Serious Fraud Office in spring 2018. The office will focus on auto insurance fraud, which has been identified as one of the factors contributing to higher premiums
  4. Directing the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to review risk factors used by insurers to calculate premiums with the goal of ensuring drivers in certain parts of the province are not subject to unfairly high rates
  5. Ensuring that lawyers’ contingency fees are fair, reasonable and more transparent

The province will establish a panel to guide the enactment of reforms contained in the Fair Auto Insurance Plan.

https://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2017/12/ontarios-fair-auto-insurance-plan.html

We will continue to keep you posted as we learn more.

Insurance assessment firms altered, ghostwrote accident victim reports

Kathy Tomlinson Reports: Read the Globe and Mail Article Here

“For Terry Blais, the ordeal of fighting for insurance coverage was worse than being hurt in a car accident.”

 

The Globe and Mail: Licensed to bill

“Doctors are taking in millions of dollars a year by putting their names to accident injury reports for the insurance industry. Some of these reports unfairly discredit injury claims, leaving victims intimidated and exhausted. But because the majority settle out of court, the practice is hidden from public scrutiny. Kathy Tomlinson investigates.”

Click here to view the article

Government Moving on Marshall Report!

Somewhat buried in the November 14th Fall Economic statement from the Minister of Finance was the news that within the next few weeks the government will announce new measures aimed at “transforming important aspects of auto insurance to create a more efficient system focused on timely care for victims and sustained savings for consumers”.

This statement follows a reference  to the Marshall Report and cites key recommendations (below):

  • Improving how the common injuries are treated and managed, so that accident victims receive more timely care and further impairments do not develop due to delayed treatment;

  • Establishing a system of single neutral medical assessments to provide patients with the best care options;

  • Implementing lifetime management of care for catastrophically injured individuals;

  • Creating a strong, independent auto insurance regulator that is more proactive and empowered to address flaws in the system; and

  • Reviewing the auto insurance rate regulation framework to enable more innovation and competition that would give a greater number of options to consumers.

Translation? It’s all guesswork but… it is looks like we will see the CTI, or a reasonable facsimile put into place, that there’s a high likelihood of a WSIB-like hospital-

based IEC system with little dispute or wiggle room on findings, potentially a change in cash settlement practices for catastrophic injuries, more regulatory muscle for FSRA (the new regulator), and greater flexibility and responsiveness to insurer rate increase requests to enable increased options for consumer. (This last rationale is for those who think Santa is real).

I’m afraid that little to none of this is good news for our members – and I’m sorry. But we will do our utmost to stay engaged and keep you informed of developments. In addition to reading the between-the-lines-tea-leaves of the statement, we are meeting this week with the Finance Minister’s lead hand on this file to see what more we can learn and to look for opportunities to influence the shape of things to come. I will also be reaching out to other associations so that we might combine our efforts where our interests align.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

“Ontario’s crowded hospitals don’t need even more exams” – WILLIE HANDLER

We are delighted to see Ontario auto insurance policy expert and consultant Willie Handler’s recent piece. His views on the Marshall Report line up beautifully with those we expressed in our submission. Fingers crossed that government will take heed.

Click Here to View the Article 

Cost Reductions are a Good News Story for Ontario Drivers & Auto Insurers

The Ontario Rehab Alliance (ORA) congratulates the Ontario government on reducing auto insurance premiums and claims costs.

The recently released annual report from GISA (the General Insurance Statistical Agency) shows two remarkable trends in 2016:

Despite a 10% increase in the number of insured vehicles to a record of 7.5 million, total net
Accident Benefits premiums dipped for the fifth straight year in a row to total $3.047 billion,
representing a 19.4% reduction from 2012 ($3.782 billion).

The reduction in net Accident Benefits premiums is a direct result of the decrease in average
cost per claim which dipped to $34,047, the lowest in last 5 years. The most recent average
claim cost represents a 12% reduction over the previous year.

The ORA notes that these trends are all the more remarkable because the GISA data does not reflect the
additional reductions in Accident Benefits claim costs that are expected from subsequent changes to the
Catastrophic Injury definition, reduction in Catastrophic and Non-Catastrophic benefits and the
transition to the Licensing Appeals Tribunal (LAT), which is expected to improve dispute resolution in the sector.

“Such dramatic reductions in both premiums and claim costs indicate that the government’s previous
strategy is now bearing fruit” says Ms. Laurie Davis, Executive Director of the ORA. “Rushing in with new recommendations based on dated data risks undoing everything the government has accomplished to date and may introduce new unpredictable costs to the system”, she adds. Ms. Davis is referring here to the recently published “Fair Benefits, Fairly Delivered” report by Mr. David Marshall which calls for a
broad system overhaul, with many of its recommendations based on 2013 financial data which
preceded many of government initiatives which led to the recent reductions.

“We congratulate Minister Sousa on his success to date and urge him to press pause on consideration of
any further reform until the last wave of changes works itself through the system and benefits are
realized. Victims of Ontario’s motor vehicle crashes have been through enough changes in the past
decade and deserve some respite”, says Ms. Davis

Please Click Here for the Full Release: Cost Reductions a Good News Story

 

 

Last Call for October 18th Event in Stoney Creek

Car Insurance Reforms Bad for Taxpayers

Original Article by Dary Merkur, August 12, 2017 (visit original post Here)

Anyone want to save $100 per year on automobile insurance?

What’s the catch you ask?

Well, you will get less insurance protection than you need.

Oh, and did I mention your taxes will go up significantly because people without adequate insurance protection will now tap into the public purse?

In other words, paying less for automobile insurance gets you less in insurance coverage and results in increased government spending (also known as higher taxes).

Wouldn’t you expect the Ontario government to quantify and evaluate the impacts of a reduced mandatory automobile insurance product before making massive reductions to mandatory automobile insurance coverage?

Not so. The Ontario government, through its June, 2016 automobile insurance reductions, adopted this “cutting corners” philosophy as its ill-conceived solution to reducing automobile insurance premiums.

Now, the Ontario government has gone a step further by considering additional automobile insurance “cost cutting” measures recommended by their advisor, David Marshall.

The recommendations by Marshall will be up for public consultation later this month.

Surely, no one will be surprised when the Ontario government announces more changes and claims victory on this issue just in time to sweep this issue under the rug before the next election.

Let me be the first to congratulate the Ontario government for reducing automobile insurance premiums by increasing taxes.

What’s next? Reducing hydro bills by increasing taxes, or has that already happened, too?

Actually, there is one even easier way to immediately reduce auto insurance premiums — enforcing a restriction on insurers’ true profit to reasonable profit expectations.

(See the comprehensive study conducted by York University Schulich School of Business Professors Fred Lazar and Eli Prisman outlining excessive profits by insurers).

Unfortunately, the Ontario government appears completely unwilling to challenge insurers’ profit reporting despite compelling reasons to do so.

Injured motorists have significant care needs.

If those needs are not covered by insurers then the costs are absorbed in large part by various government-funded agencies.

No consideration has been given by the Ontario government to the financial and practical impacts of the June, 2016 automobile insurance changes, nor to Marshall’s recommendations, on government agencies paid for by the taxpaying public.

For example, one of the June, 2016 changes was a major reduction in non-earner benefits paid to injured persons such as students, who have suffered a “complete inability to carry on a normal life”.

Obviously, these accident victims have been severely disabled in order to qualify for that benefit.

But the June, 2016 changes limit non-earner benefits to less than a total of $20,000 when previously non-earner benefits for an injured student could have been worth roughly $500,000.

Now, the injured student, who is severely disabled and permanently unable to work, ends up on Ontario Disability, which ends up covering the same $500,000 in benefits over his or her lifetime.

Another June, 2016 change that was mean-spirited and unnecessary was halving the benefits available to the most seriously injured persons in car accidents, referred to as “catastrophically impaired” persons within the legislation.

With significantly less benefits available, the catastrophically impaired accident victim’s care, housing, transportation and treatment needs are all absorbed by the taxpaying public through government assistance such as CCAC, subsidized housing, Wheeltrans, ODSP and increased reliance on OHIP (leading to longer wait times at hospitals and reduced access to physicians).

The care needs of car accident victims are real.

The goal of the automobile insurance system should be to provide a product that gives accident victims a legitimate chance to maximize their recovery and to live with dignity and independence, without having to feel like a drain on the public purse.

Reducing automobile insurance premiums by ignoring the costs transferred onto the public system is a shell game, much like the shell game associated with insurer profitability.

Have Your Say Today!

The ORA invites all FSCO licensed auto sector healthcare providers to share their experience. Click Here to complete the survey and have your say!

 

Ontario Needs to be More Transparent About Auto Insurance Changes

Written by Ken Rubin, published by The Windsor Star on June 9th 2017. See the original post Here.

 

For two and a half years, Ontario’s Ministry of Finance and its rate regulator — the Financial Services Commission of Ontario — refused to release records of the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s efforts to influence and encourage government moves to reduce auto insurance coverage.

After denying my (Ken Rubin) requests under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the ministry made submissions to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario claiming that the IBC was one of its confidential “consultant policy advisers” retained as a kind of an “expert panel.” Therefore IBC lobbying records and even its 2012 pre-budget consultation submissions should be considered policy advice and not released, it argued. The ministry made this claim despite the fact that it is supposed to regulate the IBC’s members.

The ministry also claimed in a sworn affidavit that IBC records were cabinet confidences. Since influential IBC positions were discussed at numerous identified Ontario cabinet meetings, IBC records must be subject to cabinet confidence and not made public, it said.

In May 2016, as part of my appeal of the ministry’s decision not to release the information, I argued that widening the cabinet exemption to include the IBC — an independent third-party stakeholder — would set a dangerous, unwarranted precedent.

Had the Finance Ministry and its Financial Services Commission succeeded, lobbying groups’ submissions and meetings could have been hidden and freedom of information legislation severely compromised.

But thanks to the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s benchmark decisions in April, those outlandish claims were dismissed.

As a result, the records from 2012 to 2014 that I requested were released in May. They show the IBC pressing Finance Ministry and Financial Services Commission officials through frequent communications, meetings and briefings.

In November 2013, the IBC urged the government to remain firm on a $3,500 cap for minor injury claims it felt were “vulnerable to disputes,” documents show. The bureau offered ways to tighten the cap, so that mediation and medical claims would be confined and protected from “being tested, attacked, expanded and dissected by numerous challenges.”

The IBC insisted government officials keep it informed about the development of regulations and legislation, for which it conveniently supplied drafts for the government’s consideration. For example, in August 2014, the IBC asked which measures “are ready to be presented to Cabinet” and “which recommended reforms contained in IBC’s submission of July 4 have been reviewed and are ready for constructive discussions with a view of finalizing proposed regulatory and legislative language.”

The day before a February 2014 cabinet meeting, the IBC asked – given pre-election “political uncertainty”— to be put on the agenda to discuss the government holding firm to bringing in alternate dispute resolution reform, licensing of rehabilitation clinics and reviewing costly towing practices.

Due to the government’s subsequent cuts to basic auto insurance, Ontario consumers now have to pay extra premiums for better accident coverage. In a market dominated by several large insurance companies, Ontario’s more than 9.5 million car owners still pay high auto insurance fees despite successive governments promising lower premiums.

Ontario’s auto insurance regulation system is far from independent and transparent. Other North American jurisdictions, like California, set auto insurance rates with truly independent regulators in charge after open hearings where consumers can challenge proposed rates. Data submitted by stakeholders like the IBC is subject to public scrutiny and the process is more transparent. The rates set and premiums established are fairer and lower than those in Ontario.

It’s time to end the secretive industry-government relationship that keeps the Ontario public in the dark and auto insurance premium rates high, with shrinking coverage and low benefits.