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Tell Queen?s Park there?s plenty wrong with car insurance

BY ALAN SHANOFF ,TORONTO SUN

FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MAY 26, 2012 07:20 PM EDT

Ontario’s Standing Committee on General Government is holding public hearings on car insurance industry practices this week at Queen’s Park on Monday and Wednesday.

While it’s too late to be placed on the list of oral presenters, anyone wanting to express their views on car insurance industry practices may do so by sending written submissions to the Clerk of the Committee, Room 1405, Whitney Block, Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2.

While this committee doesn’t have the power to implement changes, it can make recommendations.

The fact we have a minority government means changes favourable to consumers may be possible.

The insurance industry isn’t pleased with the committee’s review.

They point to the work being undertaken by the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force formed by the McGuinty government and the report prepared by the Catastrophic Impairment Expert Panel appointed by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. An insurance industry spokesperson has been quoted as saying there’s no need for another review.

I’d argue the contrary. Too many members of the expert panel and task force have insurance industry ties. Neither body has the mandate of examining abusive practices by the insurance industry.

And there are plenty of abusive practices to be examined.

Why are adjusters wrongly designating injured people as having only suffered minor injuries?

I’ve seen reports that claimants with fractures and complete tears have been placed in the minor injury category.

Why do insurance adjusters have the power to make medical decisions?

They can, and do, reject claims of treating physicians, without obtaining a medical opinion. Why has the denial rate for treatment plans increased substantially in the last three years?

What can we do to eliminate mediation and arbitration backlogs, so injured people can obtain justice and rehabilitation services on a timely basis?

Why do we allow insurers and adjusters to obtain medical opinions from partisan “experts” who earn substantial sums from insurance companies, rather than by treating patients?

Why do insurers require claimants to attend unnecessary and/or multiple assessments, sometimes having to travel large distances to attend appointments?

If you want specifics, take a look at FSCO arbitration decisions and you’ll see plenty.

Let’s hope the committee does a thorough job of investigating the car insurance industry. There’s much to investigate.

Insurance premiums always seem to be increasing while accident benefits decrease.

In attempting to combat fraud, insurers abuse legitimate claimants, turn down increasing numbers of treatment plans and deny legitimate accident benefits payments.

This has led to a huge backlog in mediation and arbitration proceedings before FSCO’s mediators and arbitrators.

Despite legislation requiring mediations to be completed within 60 days of the filing of an application, delays of 10 to 12 months are the norm. Additional delays waiting for arbitration lead to the farcical situation where necessary treatment and accident benefit payments are routinely delayed for two years or more.

Processing of settlement payments has recently been put into jeopardy as two FSCO arbitrators have invalidated mandatory settlement documents approved by the Superintendent of Financial Services.

Instead of revising the settlement documents, the Superintendent has issued a statement that the documents are valid, attempting to do an end run around the two arbitration decisions.

All this is going on as Ontario has imposed a miserly cap of $3,500 on what are deemed to be minor injuries.

Insurance adjusters designate a majority of claims into the minor injury category.

To put this in perspective, Nova Scotia’s minor injury cap is $7,956 –it was $7,500 when introduced but is indexed to inflation and rises each year, unlike the Ontario cap which has remained static since being introduced in 2010.

Ontarians now have an opportunity to have their voices heard.

Make sure Ontario’s Standing Committee on General Government hears your voice. 

Is your insurer any good? This online tool may help

May 02, 2012 By sherylsmolkin 

 

Insurance is something we buy just in case:  Last spring's flooding in St. Jean sur Richelieu, Que., when the Richelieu River  overflowed its banks.  (May 5, 2011)

Bernard Brault/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Insurance  can seem like a waste of money until you need it. Then the policy proceeds are a welcome cushion, easing the  impact of unfortunate events. But with  premiums costing thousands  a year, it is not surprising that some consumers  think they are paying too much or believe poor service from their carrier..

 

A recent InsurEye Inc. survey of 1,500 people in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario reveals interesting attitudes towards insurance and understanding of what they're paying for.  For example:

0.60 per cent  believe they pay too much for home, auto, or life insurance.

0.32 per cent do not understand all the features of their current coverage.

0.22 per cent report that insurance companies/agents do not clearly explain their policy provisions.

0.45 per cent want to know how much peers pay for their insurance to better inform their own decisions.

 

 

When a selected panel of consumers were also asked to review home, auto and life insurance companies for the InsurEye Consumer experience platform, they had lots of other beefs about their insurers.

 

The six top complaints were:

1. Unfair handling of claims, including incorrect value estimation for insured car or home.

2. Increased insurance rates without any reason like accidents or after “not-at-fault”  accidents.

3.Slow claim processing (up to 9 months in some cases).

4. Rude insurance agents or call center personnel.

5. Lack of contact/insufficient help from customer service.

6. Threats that insurance rates will go up.

0. 

Related: Many insurers reject requests. Will yours?

 

Based on these research findings, InsurEye has developed a consumer-driven insurance review tool that allows Canadians to rate most insurers and their products across the country.

 

The recently-launched system already contains over 600 reviews collected online for home, auto and life insurers. The insurance companies are rated on three main criteria using a scale of one to five stars, including customer experience, value for money and claims experience. Consumer comments give reviews context and share valuable experiences.

 

Reading independent reviews is free  and registered users (no charge) can write reviews, rate insurers and vote for other reviews. All reviews are anonymous and before publishing, reviews are assessed by moderators to ensure the content quality.

 

I was pleased to see that my home and auto insurer TD Meloche Monnex has been reviewed by 22 people to date and received an overall rating of four out of five stars and 4.5 stars for claims experience.

 

I can  attest to the fact that the day I drove through the garage door several years ago and smashed a can of driveway sealant releasing irritating fumes, their service was unbelievable. Within hours of my call, guys in hazmat suits removed everything and did an inventory. Although garage contents from a snow blower to a garden hose had to be destroyed, I had a cheque in a couple of weeks based on estimates easily obtained online from retailers.

 

The more people who enter data into the system, the better the tool will be for everyone, so consider adding your ratings. After all, you check online reviews for travel destinations, restaurants and movies. It only makes sense to use an online resource to compare both price and service information about Canadian insurers.

 

 

 

 

Co-operators quarterly profit increases based on auto reforms, good weather

DAILY NEWS May 3, 2012 5:09 PM – 0 comments

  

2012-05-03

 

Co-operators General Insurance Company (Co-operators General) reported its 2012 Q1 profit increased to $66.5 million from $25.8 million during the same period last year.

“Earnings in the first quarter were positively impacted by favourable claims results from the Ontario auto insurance market and the mild winter, which reduced the number of weather-related claims,” said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “In addition, net earned premium grew by 5.2% compared to last year across all lines of business and in every region. Loss ratios were also lower in all lines of business and our capital position remains strong.”

Direct written premium increased from $478.6 million in 2011 Q1 to $493.6 million in 2012 Q1, while its combined ratio improved from 103.4% to 92.3%.

The company’s MCT score in the first quarter stood at 272%

Auto insurance improvements offset by catastrophes in 2011

DAILY NEWS May 1, 2012 2:15 PM – 0 comments

                      

2012-05-01


Somewhat encouraging results on the auto insurance front were offset by catastrophes that blighted the Canadian and global landscape in 2011.

“Auto results improved only in Ontario where the direct auto loss ratio dropped by 18.5 points following a disastrous 2010,” Joel Baker, president and CEO of MSA Research Inc., writes in the company’s fourth quarter 2011 MSA Quarterly Outlook Report.

On a direct basis, the overall loss ratio differential for auto last year was down 8 points, the report notes. For a few provincial jurisdictions, the differential decreased (by 18.5 points in Ontario, for example, and by 5.6 points in British Columbia).

In most other jurisdictions, it increased. The highest point increases were seen in Nova Scotia (13.1), Newfoundland (10.7), New Brunswick (8.9), Manitoba (8.8) and Saskatchewan (8.3).

If not for the rash of catastrophes, 2011 would have been a better year for Canada’s insurance industry, Baker noted. “CAT losses aside, most of urban Canada enjoyed a mild year which acted as a buffer, lowering non-CAT property losses and substantially benefiting auto results.”

The improvement in auto results, primarily in the troubled Ontario market, offset the property losses and helped personal line writers as a group lower their net loss ratios by three points, thereby narrowing their underwriting losses substantially over 2010, Baker wrote.

Results were less encouraging for commercial writers and reinsurers, who “saw their loss ratios deteriorate by two and nine points, respectively, resulting in a flat overall industry result showing a very narrow underwriting gain of $368 million in 2011.”

Commercial, personal/multi-line and reinsurers all experienced various degrees of underwriting loss on a 2011 accident year basis, the report says. However, reserve releases reduced losses and put the commercial and reinsurers sectors into underwriting profit on a calendar year basis.