Insurance companies predict changes to virtual care after COVID 19

Insurance companies predict changes to virtual care after COVID 19

By Tara Deschamps

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ When COVID-19 started spreading through Canada, the president of one of the country’s largest insurance companies was thinking about mothers who have to tote kids to a waiting room and keep them entertained for hours just to see a doctor.

Sun Life Canada president Jacques Goulet knew his insurance business had a virtual care program offering online visits with medical professionals to help such people, but saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to do more.

On Tuesday, Sun Life rolled out access to Lumino Health Virtual Care, a platform that allows users to connect with medical professionals digitally by giving them the ability to connect with medical professionals.

It’s being offered free of charge until June to group benefits clients enrolled in extended health care benefits _ just one sign of how Canada’s most prominent insurance companies are ramping up their virtual care offerings, which they expect to be a boon beyond COVID-19.

“What I see changing in a fairly big way is how certain services are rendered,” Goulet told The Canadian Press.  “One thing that’s going to change in a big way going forward is companies essentially incorporating virtual care into their benefits program where it’s not enabled.”

Sun Life’s offering a partnership with Montreal-based Dialogue Technologies joins a referral network the company already runs with Akira, EQ Care and Maple, and is part of a slew of other virtual care services insurance brands are backing.

Manulife works with Akira to offer Healthcare Online, which gives users access to virtual medical consults, and Canada Life Assurance Co. also has virtual care offerings from Dialogue including its Chloe chatbot, which aggregates public health information for patients.

Demand for Dialogue products has been brisk, co-founder and chief executive Cherif Habib said.

“Very early in the crisis it was clear to us that we were going to play a big role in this,” he said.  “We were already planning to grow significantly in 2020, but of course, because of this crisis and because of the central role that we can play in being helpful, we need to grow even faster and hire even more people.”

When COVID-19 first emerged, Dialogue decided to hire 250 employees, including nurse clinicians and practitioners, social workers and psychologists to keep up with a  “sharp” increase in patients. Demand has climbed so high that the platform has since upped its hiring target to bring in more than 600 workers.

Over at Manulife, President and Chief Executive Michael Doughty said the company has been rising to the demands of COVID-19 by reminding customers about its virtual offerings, which includes a digital claims service it has long provided but knows is handy amid a pandemic.

“Obviously risk is part of our DNA and we have put a lot of time and effort into preparing ourselves to be able to operate in environments like this,” he said. “Not that we look forward to them, but we’re ready for them.”

Manulife, he said, has recently experienced fewer calls about dental and massage claims and more from customers with travel insurance and retirement queries, causing the company to bring in reinforcement.

“We’ve gone back to Manulife alumni that have left us in recent years, and said, `would you be interested in coming back to help our customers at a time where we’re experiencing heightened volumes?’ and we’ve had actually great success there,” Doughty said.

“We put out a call to people who can help with some of our customer contacts, like people that are in a sales role that understand the products really well at a time where…sales are down.”

Telehealth services across the country have been seeing demand surge since the start of COVID-19. Telehealth Ontario, for example, had to add 1,300 phone lines and 130 nurses to keep up.

“The big thing that we see right now is a very fast acceleration of virtual care,” said Goulet.

He believes Canadians who experience the convenience of such services amid COVID-19 will be more likely to turn to them in the future when the pandemic is over.

He’s used such services when he had an infection or when caring for his son and chalks them up as “fabulous.”

“It usually takes no more than a few minutes, you’re connected with a health care provider, you’re seeing each other on the screen and if you need a prescription they just email it directly to the pharmacy or they can even deliver it at your home,” he said.

“It’s a game-changer.”

Unemployed during COVID 19? Here’s how to navigate federal programs

Unemployed during COVID 19? Here’s how to navigate federal programs

A quick look at some of the federal COVID-19 benefit programs and who qualifies for assistance:

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The CERB pays a monthly $2,000 payment to workers who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for employment insurance.

That includes wage earners, contract workers, or self-employed individuals; those who’ve had to stay home without pay to self-isolate or care for loved ones; and anyone else who hasn’t been permanently laid off, but has stopped receiving paycheques.

Any Canadian who has stopped working for a 14-day period due to COVID-19 can qualify for the new benefit, which cover a period of up to 16 weeks.

Applications open online and by phone on Monday, April 6, with payments to arrive within five days for direct deposits and within 10 days for cheques by mail.

More information is available at www.canada.ca/coronavirus-CERB

Employment insurance

Any of the 1.3 million Canadians who have applied for EI benefits within the last two weeks and been approved will be moved over to the new emergency benefit when it becomes available. (Some recent EI applicants are slated to start receiving CERB payments within a week, according to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.)

Benefits for workers who applied for EI on or after March 15 will mirror CERB payments for the first 16 weeks.

That means Canadians who would have received EI benefits below the $2,000-per-month threshold will now be bumped up to the maximum payment. Those who would normally qualify for more than $500 per week in employment insurance (the maximum benefit is $573 per week) will instead receive the CERB payment of $2,000.

EI-eligible workers will still qualify for their usual benefits, whether lower or higher than $2000-per-month, after the four-month CERB period

Canadians who were already receiving EI will continue to do so and need not apply to the CERB, but can switch to the program if their EI benefits end before October if they remain jobless due to COVID-19.

The government says EI-eligible workers should apply for EI now rather than wait for the CERB application to come online on April 6.

Wage subsidies

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is a federal benefit that will pay 75 per cent of struggling companies’ wages _ up to $847 per week for each worker _ to keep their employees on payroll.

The $71-billion program includes organizations from bars and restaurants to charities, small businesses and large corporations, and is expected to last three months.

Employees receiving the benefit, which asks employers to cover the remaining 25 per cent of a worker’s wage if possible, cannot apply for other unemployment benefits.

The subsidy program will be available in six weeks, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday.

Business loans

Ottawa has also launched the Canada Emergency Business Account, which mandates government-guaranteed bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses. The loans will be interest-free for the first year and up to $10,000 can be waived for repayment.

COVID-19 and insurance woes create ‘perfect tsunami’ for condo managers

COVID-19 and insurance woes create ‘perfect tsunami’ for condo managers

The excerpted article was written by Yvette Brend · CBC News ·

The coronavirus crisis is complicating condo life, just as a second wave of soaring insurance premium hikes is about to kick in.

For condominium residents, the COVID-19 crisis has led to elevator restrictions, party bans and quiet hallways as people try to keep two metres apart.

For condo property managers — it’s a frantic time.

“Some stratas are more prone to drama that others,” said property manager Allen Regan who is busy keeping up with changing disinfecting and physical distancing rules, while juggling the personalities and logistics involved in upcoming annual general meetings.

The cost of catastrophes, claims and expensive repairs have sent insurance costs soaring — in some cases doubling them — and many were hit with new costs at the end of 2019.

The other half were bracing for cost increases starting April 30.

Then came COVID-19.

“It is sort of a perfect tsunami of problems all coming at once,” said Regan, managing broker with Bayside Properties and Services Ltd., which helps manage strata corporations in the Lower Mainland.

Now the coronavirus crisis is forcing some of B.C.’s condominium stratas onto shaky legal ground as they try to balance achieving a quorum of 10 council members to pass budgets with physical distancing rules.

Building managers are also trying to balance the privacy rights of potentially-infected residents in isolation with the safety concerns of other condo dwellers as the virus spreads worldwide.

Some of them are vulnerable because of their age or underlying health issues. People are being urged to inform management if they are self-isolating, so it can take safety and cleaning precautions.

“You need to look out for them and accommodate them at the same time,” said Tony Gioventu, president of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C.

Condo community enforces social distancing

Gioventu says the condo community is also good at catching rule breakers, like the group that returned from Arizona to Vancouver Island last week and headed out shopping in the community but were reported to health authorities by neighbours.

Gioventu also urges condo dwellers to call police if they hear house parties — as gatherings like this are against provincial health rules and punishable with fines.

As cleaning regimes are ramped up, strata corporations also must pass budget increases to handle rising insurance costs. Regan says this must happen fast as strata corporations are non-profits, so they do not have financial cushions to draw on if owners refuse to approve budget increases or pay strata fees or special levies.

If that happens, then “it’s a huge, immediate financial problem for the strata corporation. This at a time when people are strapped financially,” said Regan.

‘Rabble rousers’ may challenge video AGMs

He is not sure if anybody will challenge the video conferenced AGMs as invalid under the Strata Property Act.

To hold an AGM, there needs to be 10 people present, and that’s a challenge with social distancing rules that require humans to stay two-metres apart. Regan said that stratas can pass a bylaw to allow an alternative form of meeting but not many stratas have that in place.

So they are moving ahead anyway, as budgets need approval and corridors need cleaning.

“We have a few rabble rousers that have threatened to go to the CRT — which is the civil resolution tribunal — if meetings aren’t held ‘properly.’ I think most councils are saying fine. Let the chips fall where they may,” said Regan.

Source: CBC News

Insurers are under the gun as COVID-19 claims mount – but will those claims be covered?

Insurers are under the gun as COVID-19 claims mount – but will those claims be covered?

The excerpted article was written by

The Star Vancouver

When Dr. Michael Duchnay had to close his west end Toronto dental practice due to the pandemic, it was catastrophic, but there was one stroke of good luck: He had insurance. In fact, his business policy explicitly mentioned pandemic-caused closures.

But when he shuttered his shop March 15 after an advisory from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario strongly recommended he do so, his initial attempt to collect was rebuffed.

It took two weeks of runaround before insurance giant Aviva Canada agreed to pay him and other Ontario dentists for the pandemic coverage included in their expensive policies.

But while the dentists may have won their fight, other Ontario business owners might not be so lucky, experts say.

“I would say that given the extent of the loss here, cutting across multiple industries, really all sectors, the insurers are in a bit of a difficult situation,” says Toronto lawyer Hovsep Afarian, who specializes in insurance coverage law.

“So their reflexive response has been, let’s deny and we’ll sort things out later,” says Afarian, who works at the national firm McCarthy Tetrault LLP.

He says denials are being made to all kinds of claims — likely, he believes, because the insurance companies are hoping that Ottawa will offer up more aid in the meantime.

“I think a part of it may be motivated by the potential for the government to step in and provide alternative avenues for redress,” says Afarian who has already taken on pandemic clients.

“So if there’s another pocket involved, the insurers have essentially mitigated their loss because no doubt they’re going to say ‘look to the government first.’ ”

Aviva Canada CEO Jason Storah announced Tuesday evening that the company would be honouring its pandemic commitment to dentists, saying they had a unique arrangement for such viral coverage.

“There were a number of complex legal, regulatory and operational hurdles related to the dentists’ claims that we simply had to work through,” Storah said in a statement.

But, Storah said, the hurdles have now been overcome.

“As a result I can confirm today that Aviva Canada will of course stand by this pandemic coverage,” he said, adding there would be guidance from the company soon on making claims.

Afarian says most businesses would not have pandemic language written into their property policies. And if they don’t, he says, there is a real legal question as to whether pandemic related interruptions are covered.

“Business interruption is usually a component of a property policy (for which) you need physical damage,” Afarian says.

“So the debate in the industry is ‘do we have physical damage if there is a virus in the building?’ ”

READ MORE HERE: 

COVID-19 and BI claims: How coverage is triggered

COVID-19 and BI claims: How coverage is triggered

These are uncertain and challenging times. With COVID-19 causing global concern, we understand many Canadians will have questions related to commercial insurance. IBC has produced a brief Q&A document outlining how coverage is triggered and how business interruption policies work.

Commercial insurance is complex and specialized, which makes it important that you speak to your insurance representative if you have any questions or need clarification about your coverage.

Will my standard business policy or business interruption policy cover me for interruptions due to COVID-19?

  • Generally, commercial insurance policies and traditional business interruption policies do not offer coverage for business interruption or supply chain disruption due to a pandemic such as COVID-19.
  • Some organizations may have purchased specialized contingent business interruption coverage, stand-alone business interruption coverage and supply chain disruption coverage which may be triggered as a result of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic.
  • Commercial insurance is complex and specialized and specific to your business which makes it important that you speak to your insurance representative if you have any questions or need clarification about your coverage.

How does business insurance work?

Property insurance for businesses is designed to protect the physical assets of a business against loss and/or damage from a broad range of causes. There are two basic policy types:

  1. Named perils – covers only loss and/or damage caused by perils specifically listed in the policy, subject to exclusions. Loss and/or damage caused by any other peril is not covered.
  2. Comprehensive – covers loss and/or damage caused by any peril, unless specifically excluded.

What is business interruption (BI) coverage?

BI coverage is an add-on to an existing business insurance policy. In the event of a business temporarily needing to shut down, BI covers continuing expenses or replaces lost profits. There are three types of BI policies:

  1. Gross earnings policy, which pays only until property or damage is replaced or repaired, or stock is replaced
  2. Profits form policy, which continues to pay until a business resumes its normal, pre-interruption level (subject to policy limits)
  3. Extra expense policy, which is designed for businesses that can remain operational during periods affected by loss and/or damage.

How does BI insurance work?

BI policies are not standardized and include many variants, but most contain language indicating that the insurer will pay for the actual loss of “business income” due to the “necessary suspension” of operations during “the period of restoration.” A number of concepts and nuances come into play, including:

  • Physical damage requirement: Most policies require proof that the insured premises sustained physical damage (for example, from fire, heat, flooding or firefighting efforts) that was covered under their property policy, which caused an interruption that resulted in a loss of business income. A business that is interrupted due to the loss of data or a loss of utilities may not have sustained a physical loss. (There is separate utility loss coverage.)
  • Period of restoration: If BI coverage is triggered, a significant issue is defining the period of indemnity or, as some policies refer to it, the period of restoration. Most policies will pay business income loss through to the point that the business is restored or when the coverage expires (usually 12 months from the beginning of the interruption).

COVID-19 and employment insurance – everything you need to know

The excerpted article was written by DLA Piper

Unprecedented numbers of Canadians are applying for Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits due to an interruption in earnings caused by layoff, sickness or quarantine resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we explore some of the most common questions arising in relation to EI benefits at this time.

What changes have been announced to the EI benefits program in response to COVID-19?

Regular EI benefits

Employees who have been laid off by their employers as a result of business slowdowns or mandatory closures may be eligible to receive Regular EI benefits. Eligible employees may be entitled to receive a maximum of $573 per week for up to 45 weeks. To date, the federal government has not announced any changes to its Regular EI benefits program in response to COVID-19.

EI sickness benefits

Employees who are quarantined or sick due to COVID-19 may be eligible to receive EI sickness benefits up to a maximum amount of $573 per week for up to 15 weeks. Certain measures were adopted with respect to EI sickness benefits in order to respond to novel challenges posed by COVID-19. These measures include:

  • waiving of the one-week waiting period to allow new claimants who are quarantined to be paid for the first week of their claim;
  • the creation of a dedicated toll-free number to support enquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period (1-833-381-2725);
  • waiving of the obligation for people in quarantine to provide a medical certificate in support of their claim;
  • the possibility for quarantined employees to apply for EI benefits at a later date and to have their claim backdated to cover the period of the delay.

How do employees apply for EI benefits?

At this time, applications should be completed online by visiting the Service Canada website. Individuals who present themselves to Service Canada and who would otherwise be able to complete their application online will not be serviced in person. Employees who present themselves to a Service Canada office in person should expect to go through screening and to be required to practice social distancing measures. Employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not visit or enter any Service Canada office and should call 1-800-O-Canada for assistance with completing their EI application.

What must employers do once employees have experienced an interruption in earnings?

Without delay, employers must issue a Record of Employment (“ROE”) as this is the most important document allowing employees to access EI benefits. In order to complete the ROE, employers should be aware of and use the following codes when indicating the reason for the interruption in employee earnings:

  • When the employee is sick or quarantined, use code D (Illness or injury) as the reason for separation ‎‎(block 16). Do not add comments.‎
  • When the employee is no longer working due to a shortage of work because the business has ‎closed or decreased operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19), use code A (Shortage of work). ‎Do not add comments.‎

How long will it take for employees to receive their EI benefits?

Under normal circumstances, eligible employees are told to expect to receive their first payment within 28 days of submitting a completed application. In the present circumstances and in light of the fact that an unprecedented amount of applications are being received, the processing delay may be longer.

What other financial measures are available to assist employees and employers who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19?

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canadian government previously announced that it would make available an Emergency Care Benefit and an Emergency Support Benefit to employees who did not qualify for EI. On March 25, 2020, the government announced that it created a streamlined benefit, the “Canada Emergency Response Benefit” which combines these two benefits to streamline the application process and will provide $2,000 per month for four months to people who have lost their income due to COVID-19.

Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan

Employers who have no choice but to lay off their employees may elect to enroll in a Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan (SUB Plan) which allows employers to top up an employee’s employment insurance benefits during a period of unemployment due to a temporary or permanent layoff. The amount of the top up can be up to 95% of the employee’s weekly wages/salary, less the amount of the employee’s corresponding EI benefits.

Work-Sharing Program

The Government of Canada has instituted a “Work-Sharing Program” which exists to assist eligible ‎‎employers to avoid layoffs where there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business ‎activity, ‎namely as a result of COVID-19. Previously, a Work-Sharing Program ‎could only last for a maximum of ‎‎38 weeks, however the maximum period has been extended to 76 ‎weeks in response to COVID-19. ‎

Participating employees receive income support in exchange for agreeing to work a reduced schedule ‎‎and to share available work with other employees over a specified period of time. ‎

Provincial Measures

Additionally, many provincial governments across Canada have announced measures to assist their respective populations in overcoming what is a period of financial hardship for many. Employers and employees should verify if they are eligible for any such programs.

The COVID-19 situation is a rapidly evolving one with new measures being adopted or modified day-by-day and hour-by-hour. We recommend that you consult with a member of our Labour and Employment Team who will ensure that you are acting upon the most up-to-date information.

Source: Lexology

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