Regulations say insurers have to incorporate ‘lock function’ into digital credentials
Article by Christopher Macaulay
“Do my insurance benefits cover my medical marijuana costs?”
It’s a question that claimants are increasingly asking of their first-party healthcare insurers, and one that is not always easily answered.
On one hand, the use of cannabis as a legitimate treatment option has grown exponentially in recent years. On the other, the associated medical literature is in somewhat of a nascent stage, and it is not always clear whether marijuana will aid an injured party with their recovery (at least in any clinically verifiable sense).
In the recent LAT case of F.F. and Aviva Insurance Canada,1 the Tribunal was faced with the question of whether a treatment plan for medical marijuana was reasonable or necessary to treat a claimant’s anxiety and depression.
The insurer denied the treatment plan on the basis of a psychiatric expert report. The psychiatrist did not recommend cannabis as a form of treatment for the claimant’s psychological impairments. He highlighted the fact that there was limited clinical research to support the use of marijuana in treatment of anxiety symptoms.
Despite referencing the psychiatrist’s view of the clinical research, the Tribunal did not delve into what this research actually says. It is unclear whether any medical literature was put before the hearing Adjudicator.
The claimant relied predominantly on the opinion of his family doctor for his evidence. The family doctor’s records confirmed that the claimant had reported little relief from traditional psychiatric medication and psychotherapy. However, he had shown a marked improvement in both his psychological and physical well-being with the use of medical marijuana. He had also noticed an improvement in his sleep quality while using the drug.
In light of these results, the claimant’s family doctor was supportive of medical marijuana as a viable treatment option. This opinion was corroborated by a letter from a treating nurse who had also noticed the claimant’s improvements when he began to use marijuana.
The Tribunal preferred the claimant’s evidence and ordered the treatment plan payable in its entirety. The Decision highlighted the fact that the insurer’s expert psychiatric report failed to consider relevant details about the claimant’s treatment course; for instance, that the claimant had already tried traditional psychiatric medication and psychotherapy with little to no improvement before submitting his treatment plan for medical marijuana.
Interestingly, the Decision also ordered the insurer to fund a related treatment plan for a medical marijuana assessment. The Tribunal held that such an assessment would be reasonable “to determine what would be an appropriate marijuana product” for the claimant.
The Decision was undoubtedly a resounding win for the involved claimant. However, the Tribunal’s underlying reasoning raises the question of whether a claimant who turns straight to medical marijuana, without first attempting more traditional pharmacological interventions, would have the same level of success.
On a separate note, if the Decision’s findings with respect to the marijuana assessment are left to stand, this seems to open the door for cannabis clinics to submit similar assessment costs for nearly every claimant with a medical marijuana prescription. Will a cottage industry of quasi-medical “personalized cannabis evaluations” spring up? Time will tell.
One clear takeaway from the Decision is that a blanket reliance on (a lack of) medical literature will not suffice as a primary reason to deny a medical marijuana treatment plan. The Decision implicitly follows the standard set by prior SABS case law that there is no requirement for a claimant to prove to a medical certainty that a treatment will be therapeutic.2
In a broader sense, the Decision presents another example of the ever-increasing role that the cannabis industry is beginning to play within personal injury litigation. In years past, both FSCO and the LAT grappled with the idea of marijuana as a treatment modality by contrasting the illegality of recreational cannabis with its purely clinical uses.3 This distinction has since been blurred through federal legalization of the drug for recreational use. Both first and third party insurers can expect to see an increase in claims factoring medical marijuana into treatment and future care costs as a result.
- Pacquette and Certas Direct Insurance Company, FSCO A05-000934.
- See: Biro v. Unica Insurance Inc., FSCO A109-001753; M.J. and Pembridge Insurance Company, 16-000583/AABS.
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Drivers will be responsible for making sure their phone can display the proof of insurance, even with a poor signal, drained battery or damaged screen. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)
· CBC News
New Brunswick drivers are being urged to watch out for double digit auto insurance increases of 20, 30 even 50 per cent when their policies come up for renewal over the next several months — and to hunt hard for better prices if that happens.
“We try to tell the consumer to shop around and see,” said Michele Pelletier, New Brunswick’s consumer advocate for insurance, on Wednesday about drivers beginning to call her office to complain about stiff rate hikes.
“I hope it’s going to stabilize pretty soon but it’s hard to predict.”
New Brunswick is in the middle of a three-year long escalation of auto insurance rates that has been hitting drivers in different ways, with some of the largest increases still on the way.
Last week the online auto insurer Sonnet, which serves just over 3,000 New Brunswick drivers, filed a request for an average 50.3 per cent rate hike in 2020 for new and existing customers.
It’s the single largest increase applied for by any auto insurer in New Brunswick over the last three years.
Sonnet is owned by Economical Insurance which covers nearly 55,000 New Brunswick drivers. It raised rates in the province 14 per cent this year and has applied for an 11.9 per cent increase for next year.
No choice but to increase rates
In an email, company executive vice-president Paul MacDonald said neither company has a choice.
“Our proposed rates are calculated based on industry realities, and are a move to get to a more cost-appropriate position for both Economical and Sonnet, which have historically been underpriced in New Brunswick,” said MacDonald.
Insurance records show auto accident claim expenses among private passenger cars in New Brunswick in 2018 reached $380.2 million, a $147.3 million increase over six years.
Auto insurance premiums grew by $49 million during the same period and insurance companies say the large increase in their rates in New Brunswick is meant to close that gap.
“They’re saying they are losing money,” said Pelletier.
Sonnet’s proposed increase for next year is the most dramatic response by the industry yet, but other significant increases are also pending.
Others waiting for approval
Unifund Assurance, which covers just over 24,000 New Brunswick drivers, is currently waiting for a ruling from the New Brunswick Insurance Board on its request for an average premium increase of 24.5 per cent beginning later this fall.
But that is an average increase and 7,000 of those customers are facing much higher increases of between 30 and 35 per cent if Unifund’s plan is approved.
Pelletier said consumers need to look at their annual auto insurance renewal documents carefully the next time they arrive to understand what is happening with their own rates because companies often treat individual customers much differently from one another.
Earlier this year, New Brunswick’s largest auto insurer Wawanesa won approval for an average increase on its then 85,000 customers of 11.7 per cent. But that included 7,000 Wawanesa customers who saw rates jump 25 per cent.
This year Wawanesa has applied for another 8.6 per cent average increase which includes 25 per cent increases on about 4,000 of its policy holders.
Customers who have been issued traffic tickets or had accidents can guess why they are being singled out for large increases but Pelletier says for others, the reason can be a mystery and should be better explained.
“Some companies should be more transparent and if they’re charging me 35 per cent more with my premium they should send me a letter — not only my bill — but say ‘Hey Miss, (here’s why),'” said Pelletier.
Pelletier is worried more and more New Brunswick policy holders will be looking for that kind of an explanation over the next year although most insurance companies have not yet filed applications for their 2020 rates.
Source CBC News
Distracted driving is responsible for more than one in four fatal crashes on B.C. roads, which is why ICBC, police and government continue to combat this dangerous driving behaviour that claims 77 lives each year.*
Crashes reached a record high in 2017, with many of these caused by distracted or inattentive driving. While cellphone usage rightly gets a lot of the attention, distracted driving includes any activity that impacts your ability to focus on the road while in control of a vehicle.
The B.C. government, police and ICBC conduct two distracted driving education and enhanced enforcement campaigns every year. The campaigns also include advertising and social media support.
This month, drivers will be hearing one message – take a break from your phone when you’re behind the wheel. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds is strongly correlated with crashing.
Enhanced police enforcement of distracted driving will take place across B.C., including a province-wide blitz on Friday, and community volunteers are setting up Cell Watch deployments to remind drivers to leave their phone alone when driving.
Drivers can do their part by avoiding distractions while driving and encouraging others to do the same. Activate Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature or what’s similarly available on other devices. Free ‘not while driving’ decals are available at ICBC driver licensing offices and participating Autoplan broker offices for drivers to support the campaign and encourage other road users to leave their phones alone.
As part of the commitment to make roads safer, ICBC is currently inviting eligible drivers to participate in a telematics pilot project. The goal is to determine whether using this technology can improve road safety and driving behaviour for inexperienced drivers in B.C.
Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee
“Distracted driving is the number one cause of serious crashes in our province and it continues to be a growing safety concern. To combat this problem, police will be out on the road – in every community – making sure people leave their phones alone while driving.”
Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s Vice-President Public Affairs
“Our telematics pilot project will help us better understand the role that technology can play in reducing distraction and preventing crashes for inexperienced drivers. But safer roads start with every driver making a conscious decision to focus on the road and leave their phones alone. Let’s all do our part to create a safer driving culture in B.C.”
Every year, on average, 27 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland.
Every year, on average, 10 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island.
Every year, on average, 28 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior.
Every year, on average, 13 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.
*Police data from 2013 to 2017. Distraction: where one or more of the vehicles involved had contributing factors including use of communication/video equipment, driver inattentive and driver internal/external distraction.
No cap on auto insurance hikes