Rates reach new peaks in Alberta and Atlantic Canada, increasing 10.05% and 3.75% in Q4
The excerpreted article was written By Mina Mazumder
The university’s plan for international students expires in the spring
The Dean of Students Office is renegotiating the university’s health insurance plan for international students, according to John Hutton, finance coordinator for the Concordia Student Union (CSU). The students’ existing health coverage plan expires this spring, according to Fiona Downey, Concordia’s interim spokesperson.
Currently, Concordia has a separate health plan for international students. This contract is managed by Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, and Blue Cross, the private health insurance company that covers all international students.
The health insurance plan for undergraduate Canadian students is managed by the CSU and Studentcare/Alliance pour la Santé étudiante au québec (ASEQ), the largest collective insurance plan administrator for student health and dental care in Canada.
For graduate Canadian students, it is managed by the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and Studentcare/ASEQ, according to Hutton.
“Concordia international students currently pay for the single most expensive international student health plan in the country,”said Hutton. He speculated that the high expenses are due to the fact that there isn’t much competition between different health premiums in Quebec. Hutton added the university was more focused on simply providing a healthcare insurance plan for international students, than it was on making it affordable.
According to Hutton, the contract is run on a multi-year basis, usually three years but sometimes it can be extended for an additional year. The tabled three-year contract’s rate is being renegotiated between the Dean of Students and Blue Cross, according to Hutton.
“They are not getting the best health insurance plan in Canada at Concordia,” Hutton said, adding that the CSU received complaints from international students related to the co-payment for medications, lack of access to certain services like hormone therapy, and lack of dental coverage.
Tallie Segel, a second-year PhD student in social and cultural analysis at Concordia, is an international student from the United States. “I would love to have dental insurance and vision coverage,” said Segel. “I have a really strong prescription that changes often. Especially with student life, the type of work that I do, it causes a lot of eye strain and I am worried about my eyes all the time.”
Segel said the administration never told her how her insurance worked in terms of what is covered and what is not. “I don’t have a clear understanding here how the plan works and what is covered,” she said.
Segel added that the process for prescription reimbursement with Blue Cross is a bit of a hassle, and therefore, she does not make the effort to have it refunded, especially since her monthly prescription is inexpensive. Last fall, Segel paid almost $1,200 for her health insurance plan as part of her tuition fees.
According to Amir Molaei, the president of the GSA, the cost of the insurance for international students varies based on their status whether they are single, married or have a family. Molaei said that from 2015 to 2018, there was a 17 per cent increase for the single student plan and a 32 per cent increase for the couples and families plans. He added that this had affected a large number of graduate students.
Molaei explained that since some fees are not covered, such as dental insurance, many international students prefer to go back to their home country for the treatment they are unable to receive in Canada.
Molaei said he had some issues accessing Concordia’s Health Services. “I asked the receptionist that I want to have a [general] check-up,” he said. “They told me that if there is no problem with you, we wouldn’t refer you for the check up.” When Molaei went back home for the holidays, he visited his doctor and found that he had a deficiency in certain vitamins.
Hutton said the CSU and the GSA are presently preparing a pitch for the administration asking to put student associations in charge of the insurance plan for international students. “We would have a more transparent plan that would have more information easily available to students,” Hutton said. “We would be both able to negotiate a better deal in terms of lower premiums, more coverage, and have more incentive to do so.”
Molaei and Hutton said the GSA and the CSU will be meeting Woodall on Feb. 1 to discuss their proposal to manage the international students’ health plan. Although Downey did not confirm who was meeting with Woodall and Kelly Collins, the manager of the International Students Office, she did confirm they were meeting with student groups this week to start a consultation process. The aim will be “to gather information about what’s needed in a new health plan and what options exist going forward,” said Downey.
Both the union and the association have already reached out to many insurance plan providers to seek additional advice concerning this proposal. “As the current international student insurance plan is with the administration of the university, student organizations don’t have control over it and we hope to be able to take the control over the international students insurance in the near future,” Molaei said.
By Christopher Reynolds
The Canadian Press
Jeremie Dhavernas carries the weary, battle-ready look of someone slugging it out in a perpetual war.
In the fight against poverty, the Quebec community worker is enlisted to help people navigate the employment insurance system.
“It’s a very complicated program, even just getting through to get information about it,” he said at the office of Mouvement Action-Chomage de Montreal, translated as the Montreal unemployment action movement.
In the wake of General Motors’ announcement in November that it plans to shutter its Oshawa assembly plant this year — affecting nearly 3,000 unionized workers and staff and an economy that shows signs of cooling, experts say Canadians would be wise to brush up on EI and stay alert to its limitations.
Typically, anyone who loses their job through no fault of their own layoffs or work shortages, for example is entitled to benefits.
Those benefits amount to 55 per cent of your weekly wage, up to a maximum takeaway of $562 per week. The cutoff point is a salary of $53,100, above which recipients receive the same amount regardless of income.
Benefits flow for between 14 and 45 weeks, depending on the number of hours worked in the past year and the regional unemployment rate. The minimum threshold for time worked varies by region and hinges on employment levels.
In Vancouver, where unemployment is below 6.1 per cent, an applicant needs to have worked 700 hours over the last year to be eligible. That amounts to more than four months of full-time work at eight hours a day.
Workers in eastern Nova Scotia, where unemployment sits north of 13 per cent, need only have laboured for 420 hours.
The most that any one recipient could reap in regular benefits is about $25,300 in high-unemployment regions and $21,350 in low-unemployment regions.
The application process begins at Canada’s employment insurance benefits page, which lists the personal information and employment details needed to file a request.
The earlier you start the better even without a record of employment from your employer, which they are obliged to provide since a filing delay of more than four weeks after your last day of work can cost you benefits, the government warns.
Employment and Social Development Canada said in an email that “the EI rules can be complicated and everyone’s situation is unique.”
“Service Canada agents undergo extensive training so that they can provide assistance to you, and ensure you receive all benefits to which you are entitled,” the department said.
Neil Cohen, executive director of the Community Unemployed Help Centre in Winnipeg, said many of the people he helps wind up waiting two or three months for a decision on their claims application.
“The program has really been gutted to a large extent,” he said, citing higher thresholds for hours worked since the early 1990s. “That’s a huge problem, particularly for part-time workers, contract workers often women and marginalized communities.”
The appeals process can be exhausting as well, Cohen said.
The Harper government overhauled the system, paring down a tripartite appeals panel that had representation from labour, business and government to a single adjudicator.
Donna Wood, an adjunct professor in political science at the University of Victoria, called on the government to restore the Canada Employment Insurance Commission to a more independent status with more authority to adjust premiums.
“We’ve got a pretty meagre insurance program…It’s better than the United States for sure, but compared to most European countries, it’s pretty skimpy,” Wood said.
Most urgently, though, potential recipients should apply as soon as they can, and seek out the help of community organizations, she said.
Source: The Canadian Press
The Co-operators announced today it has purchased Redfords Insurance Brokers in Pickering, Ontario.
The brokerage’s portfolio includes personal and commercial insurance policies. Any existing insurance coverage a client has will remain in effect for the current term of their policies.
“This is another step forward in strengthening and growing our agency distribution system in Ontario, and across the country—allowing us to better serve Canadians and their families,” says Rob Wesseling, President and CEO of The Co-operators. “We look forward to helping our new clients get the insurance and investment products they need to achieve financial security, and ultimately, peace of mind.”
Clients will enjoy the exemplary service of a leading national insurance co-operative and have access to a full suite of insurance products including home, auto, life, travel and commercial.
About The Co-operators:
The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian co-operative with more than $42.5 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies, it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products. The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt and Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada. For more information, visit www.cooperators.ca
SOURCE The Co-operators
Great-West Lifeco Inc. today announced that it has earned an A- (leadership) rating on CDP’s 2018 Climate Change Questionnaire, which identifies the global leaders in the management of carbon, climate change risks, and low carbon opportunities. Great-West Lifeco once again achieved the highest rating among Canadian insurance companies and was among the top seven Canadian companies.
“This achievement reflects our commitment to reporting high-quality greenhouse gas emissions data and reducing our global impact across global operations,” said Paul Mahon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Great-West Lifeco. “We’re committed to managing our environmental footprint for stronger, healthier communities across Canada.”
Throughout the reporting year, Great-West Lifeco property and asset management teams worked collaboratively toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by implementing realistic and economically feasible projects, such as building equipment retrofits, ongoing commissioning projects, and other operational enhancements and behavioural changes.
CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is a global disclosure system for investors, businesses and governments to manage their environmental impacts. More than 650 investors with US$87 trillion in assets request information on climate change, water or forests through CDP. Reporting companies now represent more than 50 per cent of global market capitalization.
To view the full list of CDP scores, visit CDP.net.
About Great-West Lifeco Inc.
Great-West Lifeco is an international financial services holding company with interests in life insurance, health insurance, retirement and investment services, asset management and reinsurance businesses. Great-West Lifeco has operations in Canada, the United States and Europe through Great-West Life, London Life, Canada Life, Irish Life, Great-West Financial and Putnam Investments. Great-West Lifeco and its companies have over $1.4 trillion in consolidated assets under administration as at September 30, 2018 and are members of the Power Financial Corporation group of companies. Great-West Lifeco trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the ticker symbol GWO. To learn more, visit greatwestlifeco.com.
All figures are expressed in Canadian dollars, except as noted.
SOURCE Great-West Lifeco Inc.
Article by Gabe Flatt
Limitation periods continue to be a hot topic in the context of disability benefits. A recently released Divisional Court decision seems to have shed a little light on this matter. In Western Life Assurance Company v. Penttila, the insurer brought a summary judgment motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim due to being statute barred and out of time. The motion was denied. The insurer appealed the motion judge’s decision.
The relevant dates in this matter are as follows:
- May 16, 2012 – the plaintiff was approved for long term disability benefits due to back problems.
- February 19, 2013 – the insurer advised the plaintiff that her benefits would be denied as of March 7, 2013 due to a change in the definition of her disability. The insurer’s correspondence advised that she could appeal its decision by providing a written request for review along with supportive medical documentation.
- April 8, 2013 – the plaintiff advised the insurer that she wished to appeal the denial, and provided further medical information.
- November 13, 2013 – the insurer requested reports from two doctors from the plaintiff and advised: “upon receipt of all of the above requested information, we will complete our review of your appeal and advise you of the decision.”
- The plaintiff provided the requested documentation. On October 21, 2014, the insurer advised that the file had been reviewed and that its position “remained unchanged.”
- May 25, 2015 – the plaintiff requested a letter from the insurer that outlined its decision from its review of her file.
- June 18, 2015 – the insurer sent a letter advising that it could not conclude on the basis of the information available that she was unable to perform her occupation and that benefits beyond March 6, 2013 remain declined.
- June 6, 2016 – the plaintiff issued a Statement of Claim.
At the summary judgment motion, the insurer argued that the Statement of Claim was issued outside of the two year limitation period, which should have commenced as of either February 19, 2013 (the date of the denial letter) or March 7, 2013 (the initial termination date). The motion judge held that either October 21, 2014 (the date the insurer denied the plaintiff’s appeal) or June 18, 2015 (the date of the insurer’s final letter) were the applicable dates on which a reasonable person would have understood that a proceeding was a legally appropriate means to seek a remedy.
On appeal, the Divisional Court found that the motion judge was correct in holding that the triggering event for the commencement of the two-year limitation period was the date upon which it would be legally appropriate to commence legal proceedings to seek payment of disability benefits that the insurer refused to pay. Given that there was an agreed upon right to appeal the insurer’s denial directly to the insurer, it would be premature to commence legal proceedings until that process ran its course.
As a result, the Divisional Court upheld the Motion Judge’s decision, dismissed the summary judgment motion and awarded costs to the plaintiff.
This decision supports the idea that the limitation period for commencing a claim at Court in the disability context only begins to run once there is a final, clear, unequivocal denial of benefits. It also supports the idea that the limitation period only commences once it becomes “legally appropriate” to commence a Court proceeding. If there is another method of appeal that is either agreed upon or should reasonably be concluded prior to commencing a Court proceeding, the limitation period will likely commence only after that appeal process is completed.
This means that insurers should be very wary about providing open-ended rights to insureds to appeal the denial of disability benefits. The insurer should be able to demonstrate that a final decision was made and that the decision was communicated to the insured in a way that makes the denial clear and unequivocal.
See Western Life Assurance Company v. Penttila, 2019 ONSC 14 (CanLII)
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