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Is the Sky Falling? Auto Insurance Changes June 2016

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

In June 2016 the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule will change again.  I say “again” because in my relatively short sixteen year lifespan working in auto, the industry has gone through some major plastic surgery.  It is becoming less and less recognizable as it is nipped and tucked once more, becoming almost unrecognizable as the mandatory product we all purchase to be covered in the event of an accident.

Since the announcement of the upcoming changes, the common reaction is comparable to the story of Henny-Penny and Chicken-Little who create hysteria after an acorn falls on Chicken-Little’s head.  In earlier versions of the Chicken-Little story all the paranoid animals get lured and eaten by the fox.  Later versions of course have the animals living happily ever after, or finally understanding Newton’s law.

So, is the sky falling in Ontario’s auto insurance?  Well, I won’t say things are all unicorns and rainbows.  As of June 2016 all Ontario drivers will be paying relatively the same dollars for 50-98% of the coverage.  Attendant care and medical rehabilitation monies are being combined, resulting in reductions in coverage totalling $21K for seriously injured people and $1M for those that are deemed catastrophic.  On top of that, the industry will revise the criteria for catastrophic status so less people will qualify in the first place.  As a consumer, it is infuriating that my premiums are not changing to the $50 / year that this new coverage is worth.  As an OT that has clients running out of monies now, this does seem like the sky is falling.  Take for example my 16 year old client with C5 tetraplegia.  One million dollars in combined coverage will not last long for someone that is young, has a permanent impairment, who requires 24 hour care (and sometimes the care of two people simultaneously), and who will require a fully accessible home and vehicle so that his basic needs can be met.  And that does not even speak to the costs for the many therapies, wheelchairs, lifts and other treatments needed, nor the costs to get him education support and engaging in activities that he will find both meaningful and productive.

From a consumer and client perspective I am concerned.  While there is an option to “buy up” for decent coverage, most people don’t exercise this under the “it won’t happen to me” facade.  However, as a wanna-be optimist, from a professional and business perspective I can still help a lot of people with $65K or $1M in coverage.  That is a lot more money available than the $0 my clients with ALS, MS, stroke, or cancer ever receive.

So, Chicken-Little, Henny-Penny and friends overreacted.  They panicked.  They caused chaos.  I, on the other-hand, am choosing to take the adaptive approach.  Where are the opportunities?  What is still good about the coverage that remains?  Where can I still add value and help people?  How can I be proactive instead of reactive?  What initiatives can I support that are advocating for client and consumer protection?  What can I do in my practice to make $65K and $1M last as long as possible?  Call me Julie-Fooley, and perhaps I will be eaten by Fox-FSCO, but I still want to believe in happy endings.


The Government Gets it Wrong – Again!

Sorry people of Ontario, but I feel that the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) is an embarrassment.  In short, FSCO is a FIASCO. 

FIASCO is responsible for regulating and governing our provincial auto insurance product.  And what a mess it is.  If you read up on articles about auto insurance, benefits and changes, the comments are hilarious.  Ontarians seem to have a strong dislike for both FIASCO and Insurance Companies.

Working in this field since 2000, I have witnessed many changes.  Some good, most bad.  I have studied this product and written academic papers on the evolution of this since the SABS was introduced in 1996.  Well, more bad news.

Let me describe it this way:  we are all required to purchase car insurance – it is “mandatory” if we want to drive legally.  Insurance companies are “for profit” and compete with each other to sell this product.  The cheap insurance is typically run by crappy companies that have a culture of “deny first” and these will generally treat you poorly at the time of claim.  Like a family member of mine that was ignored by one such company for 2 years after a serious accident to finally receive a cheque to “go away”, you will get what you pay for.

So here is what is happening now.  In 2010 your benefits, or the product you were paying for at the time of renewal was reduced by 97% for “minor injuries” and by 50% for “severe injuries”.  I wrote about this previously and used the analogy that if you were buying a computer (as a comparison) instead of getting the entire computer, you would now just get the monitor for the same price.  Well recently they came out with the next round of executions.  They are suggesting that the benefits for catastrophic injury (the most severely injured that suffer long term and devastating losses) will also be cut in half.  The seriously injured again get hit with another 15% reduction (a total of 65% in 5 years).  No change to minor injury because the only way to honestly reduce that further would be to axe it altogether.  Here is the direct link to the information about what is happening:

But to drive this home I tried to think of another analogy.  I think it would be like you getting and paying your property tax bill (at its usual rates) to then go and pave your driveway to be told “sorry you don’t own that part of your property anymore – we cut that from your property line last year”.  Or, as taxpayers who pay into OHIP one day we go to the hospital in an emergency and are told “sorry, OHIP doesn’t cover emergencies anymore”.  If the stories were comparable, the government would have told you about these changes in some “fine print” but perhaps you would not have noticed.  In fact, they hope you don’t.  After all, if you truly understood what they were doing before they did it, you would join the fight to make a change.

So what can we do?  My peers, colleagues and clients are going to the MPP’s.  They hope that our elected officials can talk some sense into FIASCO.  However, we have done that before with little resolve.  Sorry government officials, you repeatedly let the people of Ontario down when you don’t help us fight for our basic rights on a mandatory product.  As FIASCO says these changes are for “consumer protection” then we can assume that the result will be drastic reductions to our premiums, right?  If you are cutting my coverage by 97% and 65% I expect an equal reduction in my premiums.  My usual $1000 bill for car insurance on my Caravan will now be $30.00, right?  I am sure my refund is in the mail. 

Please join us in the fight against changes to this product by contacting your local elected MPP.  You can find your local MPP here: