Economical asserts its commitment to the broker channel by providing sophisticated industry data

Underscoring its commitment to the broker channel, Economical Insurance is now the national title sponsor of MSA Quarterly Outlook Reports. This sponsorship funds the distribution of reports to brokerage members of insurance broker associations from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This is an expanded renewal of the sponsorship Economical began in 2016 for the distribution of MSA reports to the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario and the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta.

MSA’s quarterly reports provide informative insight into the P&C insurance industry, including financial results for Canada’s insurers.

“We are delighted to expand our sponsorship to the national level so that more than 4,500 P&C brokerage offices from Newfoundland to British Columbia have access to the same material and industry insights their carrier partners get from MSA each quarter,” said Tom Reikman, SVP and Chief Operating Officer at Economical Insurance. “This is critical information brokers need to grow and succeed in a marketplace that is continuing to evolve.

“Economical’s generous sponsorship levels the playing field for brokers,” said Joel Baker, CEO of MSA Research Inc. “The depth of research and analysis from this independent industry resource is important for them to remain competitive and relevant.”

“This is a clear demonstration of Economical’s commitment to the broker channel,” said Peter Braid, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada. “Their sponsorship will give brokerages across the country special and regular access to updated industry data, increasing their ability to compete. Being able to track and analyze current changes is a key strategic advantage, particularly since brokerage firms face constant market changes.”

About Economical Insurance
Founded in 1871, Economical is one of Canada’s leading property and casualty insurers, with $2.0 billion in premiums during 2016 and $5.4 billion in assets as at December 31, 2016. Based in Waterloo, this Canadian-owned and operated company services the insurance needs of more than one million customers across the country. Economical conducts business under the following brands: Economical Insurance, Economical, Western General, Economical Select, Perth Insurance, Sonnet, Petsecure, Economical Financial, and Family Insurance Solutions.

SOURCE Economical Insurance

Athletes and government officials sometimes get quicker access to MRIs

By Steve Lambert

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG _ Manitobans are waiting longer for magnetic resonance imaging tests, partly because some people such as injured workers, professional athletes and government officials are given faster service, the province’s auditor general said Thursday.

“Some patients were given higher priority for non-medical reasons,” Ricard wrote in his 43-page report.

“On average, members of professional sports teams received MRI scans within a day of referral. And some patients with influence such as government officials, donors or people working in the health care system received quick scans, often the same or next day and without any priority code assigned to their request forms.”

The report said some facilities give priority service to people covered by private insurance, such as pro athletes. One Winnipeg centre has an agreement with the Workers Compensation Board, which pays for the service, to scan injured workers within 20 days.

The report did not delve into which government officials might have received faster service. Ricard said in an interview he did not get into names because of confidentiality rules in the health system. He also said any influential people may have been given priority service without their knowledge.

“We didn’t find any conclusive evidence that these people sought expedited access,” Ricard said.

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the issue would be examined.

“Any time I hear that somebody might be getting a treatment not based on what they need, but who they know or who they are, I would be concerned.”

NDP health critic Matt Wiebe, a backbencher in the NDP government before the Tories won last year’s election, said he had not heard of any government officials being fast-tracked.

As of last June, the average wait time for an MRI scan in the province was 23 weeks  almost twice as long as the wait five years earlier.

While the increase is due largely to a fast-rising demand for scans, Ricard pointed to a number of aggravating factors that occurred under the former NDP government.

The government did not properly compare the benefits of different locations before announcing some new MRI scanners, Ricard wrote. There was also no review to see whether expanding the operating hours at existing centres might be more efficient than adding new machines, he added.

The province lacks a centralized system to process requests for scans, leading to different wait times in different areas. And there are very few measures taken to cut down on the number of unnecessary tests, Ricard wrote.

“Several … staff told us inappropriate MRI requests are a problem and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health reports that evidence indicates 10 to 20 per cent of medical imaging exams are unnecessary or inappropriate.”

Wiebe said the former government was focused on getting MRI scanners to different areas of the province to address growing demand and reduce travel time for patients. There were only two scanners in the province in 2004. The NDP had added nine by 2011, Ricard noted.

The Tory government has left the door open to following Saskatchewan’s lead and allowing private clinics to charge for MRI scans as long as they perform an equal number of free scans for people on the public waiting list.

But Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has condemned that system as bad policy, bad medicine and a violation of the Canada Health Act.

“We remain open to those suggestions or options,” Goertzen said.

“We’ve had … a few proposals that go along that direction. We need to review them more in-depth.”

What to know when shopping for financial advice in a sea of titles and credentials

By David Hodges

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Choosing a financial adviser is a big decision, yet few investors realize that in most provinces there’s a lack of specific, harmonized regulation of professionals who provide that type of service.

An expert panel set up by the Ontario government has made several recommendations to deal with major concerns, including the myriad of confusing titles and credentials and the lack of an explicit obligation to act in a client’s best interest.

However, that hasn’t stopped investors from increasingly relying on financial advisory services.

A 2016 study by the Canadian Securities Administrators found that 56 per cent of respondents were working with an adviser, up from 43 per cent a decade earlier.

For those considering working with an adviser, experts recommend taking these steps before making a choice:

Check registration

Marian Passmore, director of policy for investor advocacy group FAIR Canada, says securities regulators will only register firms and individuals if they are properly qualified. So check an adviser’s registrations.

“A lot of people don’t do that,” Passmore says. “If they had done so, they may have not lost their money.”

A good place to start, says Passmore, is the CSA’s AreTheyRegistered.ca site, which allows you to search for any licensed investment adviser. Keep in mind, however, that insurance and financial planners won’t be on that site unless they’re also licensed investment advisers.

The CSA website also allows you to see if your licensed adviser has ever been disciplined for misconduct.

___

Ask about products and services offered

Not all advisers offer the same products and services and not all have the same expertise, so it’s important for consumers to understand the differences.

For instance, most investment advisers are licensed by either the Mutual Fund Dealers Association or the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. But while most MFDA-licensed advisers deal only in mutual funds, IIROC advisers can also offer other products including stocks and exchange-traded funds.

In the case of financial planning services whether that’s to reduce taxes, save for a big purchase or to retire in comfort there are dozens of designations and investors will likely have a hard time distinguishing between them.

“IIROC has over 30 credentials that people have but that doesn’t really tell you how difficult or onerous those credentials are,” says Passmore.

The certified planner certification is a reputable designation for those who want a combination of sound investment advice and financial planning know-how, says Ken Kivenko, an investor advocate who is also chairman of the Small Investor Protection Association’s advisory committee.

“They can go beyond the straight investing phase,” Kivenko says. “They do holistic plans.”

___

Assess the cost of advice

Because advisers can be paid by salary, commission, a flat fee or a combination of methods, it’s important to make sure you understand how your adviser is paid, how much their services will cost, and how this may affect the advice you’re given.

For instance, many advisers are paid a commission for every product they sell, which may influence an adviser to recommend one investment over another, according to the CSA.

But keeping fees and other investment-related costs low has been proven to be one of the best and easiest ways to help your savings grow.

A fund with low fees, such as indexed mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, has an automatic head start over higher-cost rivals for returns and compounded over years the advantage can grow even more powerful.

Some floodwater receding in Manitoba but flows increasing on Assiniboine

WINNIPEG _ Floodwater is receding across parts of southern Manitoba but officials warn water is on the rise along the Assiniboine River.

In its flood bulletin, the province says it has lifted a flood warning for some rivers since flows are decreasing.

But officials say a flood watch remains west of Winnipeg, between Portage la Prairie and Headingley, as the water continues to rise into the weekend.

The province says a significant amount of water is coming in from Saskatchewan and ice jams are a concern on a few rivers where the ice is still intact.

Officials say the Red River has already crested in Winnipeg and water is decreasing in some tributaries.

Forecasters have said soil moisture is very high following a wet fall, and river and lake levels are above normal in some areas.

Officials are urging any homeowners affected by this spring’s flooding to review their home insurance. They say overland flood insurance was introduced by some insurers in Manitoba last year.

Loblaw is covering medical marijuana for workers. Will other employers follow?

By Solomon Israel, CBC News

At first glance, the news was “actually pretty stunning.”

Joan Weir, director of health and disability policy with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, was surprised to see that Canadian retail giant Loblaw Companies had started covering medical marijuana for employees through their health benefit plans back on March 28.

After taking a closer look at the limitations of Loblaw’s coverage, Weir said her astonishment diminished somewhat. The company is only covering medical marijuana used to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, as well as the side-effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients, and only up to $1,500 per year.

“I don’t think it’s a game-changer yet,” she said.

Still, Weir said Loblaw is now the first large Canadian employer to cover medical marijuana under a benefits plan.

As the federal government charges towards legalization, Loblaw’s move hints at a possible future trend in employee insurance benefits.

45,000 employees covered

It’s not hard to imagine why Loblaw might be willing to cover medical marijuana: the company’s Shoppers Drug Mart division has applied to Health Canada for the licence needed to sell legal medical marijuana.

In a statement, Loblaw spokesperson Tammy Smitham said the company was “adapting to changes in the area of drug therapies.”

“More robust clinical evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for some specific conditions has emerged and we felt the time was right to make this addition to our benefits plan,” said Smitham.

About 45,000 Loblaw employees will be covered under their plans, Smitham said, although the company doesn’t know how many employees use medical marijuana. Insurance benefits for Loblaw workers and Shoppers Drug Mart administrative employees are managed by Manulife, and Shoppers Drug Mart store staff are covered by Great West Life.

According to Health Canada, 142,541 people were registered to buy medical marijuana from government-licensed producers as of Jan. 31.

An insurance perspective

​Medical marijuana will have to clear some significant regulatory hurdles before it becomes a regular health insurance benefit, according to private health plan strategist Suzanne Lepage.

Usually, said Lepage, insurers won’t cover a drug until it has passed clinical trials, been approved by Health Canada and assigned a drug identification number (DIN). Some individual medical marijuana users areurging the federal agency to assign a DIN for dried marijuana for medical purposes.

“Until that happens, it doesn’t even get in the queue to be considered,” said Lepage.

After that, insurance providers run a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the drug is worth covering. Even though medical marijuana doesn’t yet meet insurers’ regular criteria, said Lepage, large employers like Loblaw can ask for extra-contractual provisions to administer coverage — if they’re willing to take on the cost.

‘A great first step’

Loblaw’s decision to start covering medical marijuana is “a great first step for the industry,” said Deepak Anand, executive director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association.

Even so, Anand sees Loblaw’s $1,500 per year coverage limit as “quite low.” An annual limit of $5,000 would be more appropriate, he said.

“If you look at the costs that patients end up paying, it’s only going to cover them about six months, whereas it’s supposed to last them a year or so,” he said.

According to Anand, the landscape for insurance coverage of medical marijuana is already changing.

In 2017, a Nova Scotia human rights board ruled that Gordon Skinner’s employee insurance plan had to cover his prescribed medical marijuana. In 2016, University of Waterloo student Jonathan Zaid convinced his student union to cover his prescription. Veterans Affairs Canada also covers the cost of medical marijuana for Canadian military veterans.

For now, Anand says the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association has been fielding lots of calls from insurance companies who want to talk about medical marijuana.

Employer concerns

Insurance companies and their clients aren’t just worried about the cost and effectiveness of medical marijuana, according to Joan Weir of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. They’re also trying to figure out how it will fit into the workplace.

She said covering medical marijuana brings complications related to “having medical marijuana at work, having it used at work, having impairment at work, all of those sorts of issues that employers would have to deal with if they were to add it on.”

Those complications are even trickier in fields where industrial safety is a concern, she said.

More research into the effects of medical marijuana could help mitigate some of those fears, said Weir. But in the near future, she said, the uptake of medical marijuana coverage under employee benefit plans is “going to be slow.”

Unlicensed Entity Selling False Proof of Auto Insurance

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) is warning consumers that an organization known as Switzerland Imperial Bank AG (“S I B AG Corporation”) is not licensed to do insurance business in Ontario.

Switzerland Imperial Bank AG appears to have issued a fraudulent liability slip (“pink card”) to a consumer as proof of auto insurance.

Switzerland Imperial Bank AG is not licensed with FSCO or the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario.

Switzerland Imperial Bank AG is using the email address info@s-i-b-ag.com, is soliciting insurance business through their website, , and appears to be directing Ontario consumers to their Ontario director, Enzo Jones, at phone number (905) 551-0346.

Also, on its website, the address of Switzerland Imperial Bank AG’s headquarters is listed as Bosch 73 Huenenberg, Switzerland, and its telephone is listed as + 41 41 819 16 50.

Consumers should exercise caution if they are contacted by anyone claiming to represent Switzerland Imperial Bank AG or using these coordinates. Consumers should not purchase insurance items through Switzerland Imperial Bank AG, but instead are encouraged to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

If consumers purchase items or insurance through individuals or companies that are not licensed in the province, they are not protected under the Insurance Act and the regulations that govern Ontario’s licensed insurance companies and agents.

FSCO’s website contains a list of all insurance companies and agents licensed to do business in Ontario. The website of the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario contains a list of all brokers licensed to do business in Ontario.

Additional Information:

What to Do If You Think You are a Victim of a Scam or Fraud

SOURCE Financial Services Commission of Ontario

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