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Insurance companies reconsider ‘dated’ policies for suicide attempts

By Marnie Luke and Diana Swain, CBC News

Canadian insurance companies are changing the wording in their policies and reviewing whether to remove controversial clauses in group and individual benefit plans that exclude coverage for people who try to kill or injure themselves.

The move comes after a recent CBC News investigation revealed that leading insurers such as Manulife, Desjardins, SunLife and Great-West Life can refuse to pay for treatment related to self-inflicted injuries and suicide attempts whether, as some policies state, the insured person was “sane or insane” at the time.

“Our member companies have agreed that this is an area that needs attention,” said the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) in an email to CBC News, noting that some of the 68 companies it represents have begun the move toward phasing out the exclusion clauses.

The association said that while it’s up to each insurer to take its own approach, “they are as a whole moving to ensure that both the language used and the exclusions being applied are up to date and in keeping with both the industry’s and Canadian society’s focus on responding to mental health issues in a fair, progressive and compassionate basis.”

It’s a significant shift from the response CBC News received when it contacted numerous insurance companies during an initial investigation two months ago.

At the time, responding through the association, they said insurance is meant to “protect people in the event of an unexpected injury or illness, and not for losses which result from the insured person’s deliberate actions.”

The association now says the CBC investigation prompted it to take “serious steps to move this issue forward” and that references to “sane or insane” will be removed as policies are renewed and updated because the language is considered “dated.”

Nearly 4,000 people die as a result of suicide across the country each year, according to Statistics Canada, and mental health professionals estimate up to 80,000 try to kill themselves.

Rejected payment a ‘slap in the face’

Mark Warder wants his story to bring life to those statistics.

The 46-year-old from Lion’s Head, Ont., was travelling in the United States for work last year when a sudden bout of severe depression made him want to “fall asleep and not wake up.”

After contacting his Canadian employer to say he wasn’t fit to continue driving, Warder pulled over and swallowed a handful of sleeping pills in an attempt to end his life.

A police crisis unit rushed him to a nearby hospital in Ohio, where he stayed for five days.

By the time he was discharged and given a bus ticket back to Ontario, he had accumulated $10,000 in hospital bills.

Both Warder and his employer were blindsided when the company’s insurer, SSQ Financial Group, refused to pay for his treatment.

“It’s kind of a slap in the face,” said Warder.

“It was kind of, ‘We’re glad you made it, but sorry for your luck. Here’s the bill.’ ”

Motivation to fight

While SSQ’s employee benefit plan does cover out-of-country medical expenses, the “suicide attempt” exclusion clause allowed the insurer to refuse payment.

“The claim was rejected because I got to the point of being suicidal. If I wasn’t that bad, the plan covers it,” Warder said, referring to the fact that he would qualify for treatment for depression.

He said he felt compelled to share his story after reading CBC’s report on suicide attempt and self-injury exclusions clauses.

Mark Warder and his employer were blindsided when the company’s insurer, SSQ Financial Group, refused to pay for his treatment at a hospital in Ohio after he swallowed a handful of sleeping pills in an attempt to end his life. (CBC)

“Let’s face it, most people if they’ve gone through this and [the insurance claim] gets turned down, they don’t have the motivation to fight it,” Warder said of his decision to go public about his ordeal.

Trudy VandenAkker, an insurance broker who worked with Warder and his employer on an unsuccessful appeal of his case, doesn’t think he should be forced to pay out of his own pocket.

“What was he supposed to do? He obviously had to get medical assistance and this policy should have actually covered him and been there for him,” she said.

Bill Wilkerson, a former executive in the insurance industry who now educates businesses on the impact of mental illness in the workplace, feels the clauses and language surrounding them are antiquated.

“It’s one of those hangovers from an ancient time of stigmatizing mental illness and viewing the destruction of someone under those circumstances as either a crime or a sin when it is neither,” he said.

The act of “committing suicide” was a crime in Canada until 1972.

The insurance industry association said it’s too early to provide a time frame for when exclusion clauses will be removed and could not provide details about which companies are moving in that direction.

According to Wendy Hope, vice-president of external relations for the association, group benefit packages are typically reviewed by insurers and their customers about once a year.

“While companies have begun the process of updating their policies, needless to say these changes will not occur at once but will be addressed as the policy wording and booklets are updated,” she said.

Wilkerson said while it’s a good start, he’s not optimistic the industry will take immediate steps to change, characterizing the association’s new position as “regrettably ponderous and opaque.”

IBC President Outlines Significant Costs of Climate Change for Atlantic Canadians

Today at an Economic Club of Canada event, Don Forgeron, President and CEO of Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), outlined the significant costs of climate change to Canadian taxpayers, governments and businesses, calling for a collaborative national flood program.

“Extreme weather events driven by climate change have increased in frequency and severity, as seen right here in Atlantic Canada. Storms and flooding in recent years have turned extreme and at times, tragic,” said Forgeron. “Canada is not prepared for the increase in damage caused by climate change. As the only G7 country without a national flood program, Canadians, our government and the insurance industry have been left dangerously exposed to severe weather risks.”

The annual economic costs of disasters around the globe have increased five-fold since the 1980s, increasing from $25 billion a year in the ’80s, to $130 billion a year in the 2000s. Canada has not been immune to these escalating costs. Federal disaster relief spending has risen from an average of $40 million a year in the 1970s to $100 million a year in the 1990s, reaching over $600 million a year this decade. In 2013, it reached a record $1.4 billion, largely as a result of two flooding disasters, in Alberta and Ontario.

“By taking action now, we can help minimize costs to taxpayers and better equip homeowners for the increased weather risks,” continued Forgeron. “We look forward to collaborating with federal and provincial governments to develop a coordinated, private-public response to this growing national problem.”

Building a country resilient to flooding requires a multi-pronged approach. Aging infrastructure needs to be upgraded to enable it to withstand the increased precipitation. It is also vital to inform Canadians of the physical and financial consequences of flood.

IBC is proposing a framework for the financial management of flood risk, with shared responsibilities for the insurance industry, all tiers of government and consumers.

“A thoughtful, sustainable approach that puts Canadians at the centre of the solution cannot wait,” added Forgeron. “We need to build a new framework to guide our response to floods, building on the best practices in flood insurance in other G7 countries.”

For more information about IBC’s work on severe weather and flooding visit http://www.ibc.ca.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $8.2 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion. For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and @IBC_Atlantic or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance company: New Uber insurance plan in Alberta just needs political stamp

BY , POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Uber’s new insurance policy meets every technical requirement demanded by Alberta’s Superintendent of Insurance, says an official with the policy author, Intact Financial.

It just needs political approval from Finance Minister Joe Ceci. Uber officials are getting nervous with just five days remaining to Edmonton’s March 1st deadline.

Intact senior vice president Karim Hirji said he got verbal confirmation from the superintendent several weeks ago. “He’s comfortable with the product structure we’ve agreed to jointly with him and it’s up to the provincial government for further review.”

“The Superintendent of Insurance has been involved in constructive discussions with Intact insurance. But the issue remains under review and no agreement been reached,” said Leah Holoiday, press secretary for the finance minister, in an email.

Uber officials say they will disable the app in Edmonton if they are unable to secure provincially-approved insurance before Edmonton’s new ride-sharing regulations take effect March 1. They are also hoping Mason grants an exemption to the provincial law requiring a Class 4 licence, with a medical and additional driving test, for anyone driving a passenger for hire car.

Hirji said the new Intact policy will be signed with Uber to give all Uber drivers commercial coverage from the moment they accept a ride request to the moment the passenger exits the vehicle. It will be primary coverage, rather than the contingent coverage that caused many to take issue with their current policy.

Each driver will still need personal policies to cover them when they don’t have a ride booked. But since many personal policies say the policy is void if the driver is caught driving anyone for a fee, Intact will offer personal policies that allow ride-sharing. It will also offer contingent, or secondary, coverage for all Uber drivers until other insurance companies start to allow ride-sharing as well.

“We’re hopeful that when other personal insurers understand what the commercial coverage we’re offering is, that more and more companies will permit ride-sharing under their personal policies.”

Uber’s Alberta general manager Ramit Kar said the app will stop working in Edmonton Tuesday if the province doesn’t approve the new insurance. “Unless the province really takes some action on insurance and licensing, we’re not going to be able to continue operations and quite frankly that’s going to cost the city of Edmonton thousands of jobs.”

He’s previously said 4,000 drivers have signed up in the last year, but won’t say how many are still active drivers.

Kar said the company can’t continue to operate without provincially approved insurance after March 1 because the Edmonton bylaw is clear. His position is that drivers were operating in an unregulated space before.

But he also needs the province to wave or change the requirement for a Class 4 licence since most part-time Uber drivers don’t have that. Alberta requires the professional-class licence for anyone driving someone else for pay.

“Class 4 does nothing to improve public safety. … It just ends up creating more red tape for drivers,” said Kar, adding that the majority of the other 70 places that have regulated ride-sharing don’t require a professional-class licence.

Source: Edmonton Sun

Homeowners with old plumbing must be wary of insurance needs

Many Canadians now live in older homes that have been renovated, but that could put them at risk for a potential issue that’s likely to be unique to their situations. As such, it’s important for these homeowners to make sure they’re properly addressing all their insurance needs, especially when it comes to issues such as the old fixtures in their homes.

For instance, there are many renovated older homes across Canada that may look completely new on the outside, but are not necessarily all that new internally, according to a report from the Ottawa Citizen. Homeowners may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars – or more – to renovate older buildings, but if they’re not also making sure the guts of the home – such as electrical wiring and plumbing – are being modernized as well, they may be in for a rude awakening.

READ MORE HERE via April – Changing the image of Insurance

Parachute teams up with Economical Insurance to educate ‘young brains.’

Parachute, the national charity dedicated to preventing injuries and saving lives, is pleased to announce its partnership with Economical Insurance as the first National Gold Sponsor of Brain Waves (formerly Brain Day). The interactive, hands-on program teaches students about concussion awareness, along with brain and spinal cord education.

Preventable injuries kill more Canadian children than any single disease and more youth than all other causes combined. Nearly 23,000 Canadian youth sustain head injuries in a single year. [1] Each year preventable injuries cause 16,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and cost the Canadian economy $27 billion.

“With the generous support of Economical Insurance, we can provide life-saving information to students and help stop the clock on children’s injuries,” said Louise Logan, Parachute President and CEO. “We look forward to working together with Economical Insurance to reach young people from coast-to-coast through more than 25 volunteer-led Brain Waves sites.”

Brain Waves transforms students into young scientists for part of the day, turning classrooms into laboratories. Students learn about brain safety and the impact of concussion. They discover how fragile the brain actually is through visual aids, such as a brain made of gelatin. They also learn how to protect their heads by wearing a helmet and following other safety tips.

“Too many Canadians are killed or disabled by preventable injuries every year,” said Karen Gavan, Economical’s president and CEO. “By building awareness of how to protect the most vital organ, our brain, we are able to focus on safety and injury prevention. We are pleased to support this important initiative that helps kids better understand how to protect themselves while having fun.”

The pulse of Brain Waves is getting stronger, with 30,000 students taking part nationwide in 2015. The program is offered by both volunteer classroom presenters and online, through downloadable teaching materials. Over 9,200 Canadian children between the ages of 5-19 were treated for head/brain trauma in 2011.

About Parachute
Parachute is a national charity helping Canadians stop the clock on preventable injuries. The injury impact is staggering. Preventable injuries are the #1 killer of children. They cost the Canadian economy $27B a year, and worst of all, one child dies every nine hours. Through education, knowledge and empowerment, Parachute is working to save lives and create an injury-free Canada. For information, visit us at parachutecanada.org, follow us on Twitter, or join us on Facebook.

About Economical Insurance
Founded in 1871, Economical Insurance is one of Canada’s leading property and casualty insurers, with approximately $2.0 billion in annualized premium volume and $5.3 billion in assets as at December 31, 2015. Based in Waterloo, this Canadian-owned and operated company services the insurance needs of more than one million customers across the country. Economical Insurance conducts business under the following brands: Economical Insurance, Economical, Western General, Economical Select, Perth Insurance, Family Insurance Solutions, and Economical Financial

[1] (Source: Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X)

SOURCE Economical Insurance

For further information: Andrea Piunno, Parachute, 647-776-5134, apiunno@parachutecanada.org; Doug Maybee, Economical Insurance, (T) 519.570.8249, (C) 519.404.0989, doug.maybee@economical.com

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