Some long term care homes can’t get insurance, could be force to close

Some long term care homes can’t get insurance, could be force to close

By Liam Casey

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario’s long-term care homes are having trouble securing liability insurance for COVID-19, a situation that could force some of them to close, a group representing more than 70 per cent of the province’s homes says.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association says its homes are being offered new policies without a key provision: coverage for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

The association has now turned to the federal government for help, saying potential claims could place a burden on the homes’ finances, and loans could be denied over the lack of coverage.

“We’re operating in good faith trying to do the best we can, but we really do need help with this and we need help urgently,” said CEO Donna Duncan.

Previously, long-term care homes received $5-million to $10-million coverage for damages or claims related to infectious diseases, Duncan said.

Now, insurance companies are including a “contagious disease exclusion endorsement” in policies for the homes, she said.

COVID-19 and a laundry list of other diseases are specifically not covered, according to one policy obtained by The Canadian Press.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, which represents the majority of insurance companies in the country, said coverage for losses related to communicable diseases is available in certain policies but isn’t easy to get.

“In an active pandemic environment, coverage for pandemic-related financial losses would naturally be extremely difficult to obtain,” spokesman Steve Kee said.

“This situation is akin to trying to get fire insurance when your house is on fire.”

Insurance companies continue to provide general liability insurance to long-term care homes, he said.

Duncan said some homes have already lost liability insurance against infectious diseases when they renewed their deals this summer.

Without that coverage, some homes are being refused loans and lines of credit, she said.

In one case, Duncan said, a small home that hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19 sought to build a new facility to get away from the three- and four-bedroom wards that have proven to be like death traps if COVID-19 got in. The facility needed financing to get the project going, but was denied money from a lender because of the lack of liability insurance for COVID-19, she said.

The lack of coverage against infectious diseases also leaves directors and members of boards personally liable to any legal action, Duncan said.

There are numerous lawsuits, including several class-action suits that have already been brought by grieving families against homes where residents died of COVID-19.

Duncan said the majority of homes have insurance renewals set for Dec. 31.

Her association has pleaded its case to the federal government in a letter sent late last week, asking Ottawa to provide a “backstop” and essentially insure the insurance companies.

“In consultation with insurers, reinsurance companies and major lenders, it is clear to us that long-term care is now essentially uninsurable for outbreaks,” Duncan wrote.

The insurance industry is open to the association’s federal government backstop idea, Kee said.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions to the Minister of Health, which did not answer questions about the request from the long-term care association.

A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government will work with the provinces “to set new, national standards for long-term care that ensure the health, safety, and well-being of residents.”

In Ontario, the majority of homes are for-profit, with the remainder not-for-profit or municipally owned.

Several experts questioned whether it is appropriate for taxpayers to insure for-profit insurance companies and thereby cover any claim against long-term care homes.

Tamara Daly, the director of the York University Centre for Aging Research and Education, said taxpayers providing insurance to the long-term care industry is not workable.

“I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to publicly fund liability insurance,” she said.

Daly and Samir Sinha, the director of health policy research at the National Institute on Ageing and a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said public money would be better spent fixing the long-term care home system in the province rather than fixing the insurance issues.

“If we dealt with the fundamental issues right off the beginning, if homes had enough staffing, enough PPE, they may not have been in the situation in the first place,” Sinha said.

More than 1,900 residents of long-term care homes have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit. The number of cases in the province’s 625 facilities are surging once again as the second wave takes hold, with outbreaks in 72 homes by mid-October.

 

 

Employment Insurance System Added 1.3 Million People After CERB Ended

OTTAWA ― The employment insurance system absorbed almost 1.3 million people in the last three weeks, new figures show, as a key COVID-19 benefit wound down.

A breakdown of applications for the simplified EI program shows that overall there had been more than 1.5 million claims as of late this past week, among them 1.15 million people who were automatically transferred when their emergency benefit ran out.

The figures are enormous for a system that in one day this month handled 246,000-plus claims. In the spring, officials worried the 87,000 applications on one March day would make the decades-old system burst its seams.

Figures obtained by The Canadian Press also show that more than 84 per cent of applications had been processed, which experts who reviewed the numbers noted was a positive sign for the transition off the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, better known as the CERB.

Couple that with the more than 300,000 people who turned to a suite of new benefits on the first day they were available, and the figures provide a hint at the ongoing need for income support even as employment has picked up.

Figures on claims can be “valuable in providing a partial, real-time assessment″ of the impact COVID-19 has on the labour force, officials wrote to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough in April.

At the time, they were writing in a briefing note about providing regular updates on CERB recipients and payments as “the labour market landscape continues to evolve across the country.”

READ MORE HERE: 

Source: Huffington Post

 

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Canada’s hospitality businesses face new threat amid coronavirus – rising insurance

 

Canadian hospitality businesses, already reeling from the downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, are facing yet another existential threat as insurance companies spike premiums or exit the space, citing losses and the sector’s risks.

Even before COVID-19, insurers globally were scaling back from riskier businesses to improve performance. The pandemic’s profit hits have accelerated the trend and led underwriters to exit from, or raise premiums in, select categories.

Hospitality businesses, particularly those needing coverage for accidents caused by alcohol-impaired clients, were already seen as higher risk, said Karen Ritchie, vice president at Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers and president of the Toronto Insurance Council. The coronavirus exacerbated that.

“It’s a perfect storm,” she said.

Many hospitality companies were already operating on razor-thin margins before pandemic-driven lockdowns. An inability to access affordable insurance could spell the end for them, given they are barely managing to hang on amid distancing restrictions.

While these businesses carry the same risks as elsewhere, the Canadian hospitality industry has faced a bigger hit due to a much smaller insurance market dominated by Lloyd’s syndicates, Ritchie said. Far more domestic insurers cover the space in countries like the United States, spreading out risk, she said.

Toronto’s top doctor recommends lower music, reduced capacity in bars and restaurants

Toronto’s top doctor recommends lower music, reduced capacity in bars and restaurants

Lloyd’s is a marketplace that comprises various specialist insurers, or syndicates, who write policies.

Lloyd’s business volumes fell 8.6 per cent in the first half of 2020, reflecting an intentional reduction by several syndicates exposed to poorly performing business segments, the group said in a statement.

The Lloyd’s market lost 438 million pounds ($569 million), versus a 2.3 billion pound profit a year earlier, primarily driven by coronavirus-driven losses.

‘I would close’

Erik Joyal, co-owner of Ascari Hospitality Group in Toronto, was told last month that his Hi-Lo Bar’s policy would not be renewed as his insurer, part of Lloyd’s, was moving away from restaurants and bars.

His broker found a policy through another insurer at more than three times his current C$9,000 annual premium, even though the restaurant had never filed a claim.

“I would close the business before I signed on to that,” said Joyal, who is continuing to search for an affordable policy.

Insurers, like other businesses, need profits, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

And there is still capacity and affordable coverage available for businesses that can show measures to minimize risks, he added.

Arron Barberian said his Harry’s Steak House in Toronto was dropped by his insurance company, Groupone Insurance Services, although he paid premiums when the business was shut.

Groupone declined to comment.

Barberian found a policy through Intact Financial Corp , which insures his other Toronto restaurant, Barberian’s Steak House. While cheaper, it offers slim, possibly inadequate, coverage, he said.

Intact’s underwriting criteria for restaurants haven’t changed, and it continues to renew policies and write new ones, a spokeswoman said by email.

B.C. bar and restaurant owners say mandatory 10 p.m. shutdown rule is seriously hurting business

B.C. bar and restaurant owners say mandatory 10 p.m. shutdown rule is seriously hurting business

A Nova Scotia hotel owner, who said he was quoted a 50 per cent increase in premiums to renew his policy, also found more affordable coverage through Intact.

Even so, the owner, who declined to be identified as he is negotiating the return of some premiums paid during the shut-down, said he is bracing for thousands of dollars in additional expenses, as a change in insurers is accompanied by an inspection and, often, demands for changes.

His previous insurer, Wawanesa Insurance, attributed the premium increase to higher fire and storm-related losses even before the pandemic.

Despite limited ability to operate, “many bars and restaurants https://www.alignedinsurance.com/restaurant-insurance-overview still had contractual obligations and real risk that needed to be insured and insurance had to be maintained,” said Andrew Clark, chief executive of mortgage broker ALIGNED Insurance.

“The unfortunate reality is that the insurance companies aren’t willing to insure some businesses right now and they don’t really have many other options than to close,” Clark said.

Source: Global News

Existing policy holders received rebate cheques, but drivers seeking new policies saw higher average prices

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Why can’t Toronto music venues get insurance?

“It’s a catch-22. The system says we need insurance, but the system won’t provide it to us.”

The excerpted article was by Richard Trapunski | nowtotonto.com

There’s a new obstacle facing Toronto’s already precarious live music venues: none of them seem to be able to get insurance.

A coalition of the city’s venues are calling on the Ontario government to help them figure out why so many are being refused renewals on commercial liability insurance.

After months of behind-the-scenes advocacy, no one has come up with answers.

“Live music venues in Ontario are facing unprecedented hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” writes Shaun Bowring, owner of the Baby G and the Garrison, in a press release. “In addition to 100 per cent loss of revenue now over six full months, permanent loss of valued employees and lack
of resources/funding to cover basic operational costs, as an industry we are now facing an unparalleled crisis in regard to commercial insurance.

“Commercial insurance rates for live music venues have risen between 200-400 per cent over the last 10 years,” he adds. “Now, the unregulated insurance industry in Ontario has presented… predatory practices making it near impossible for many in our industry to continue operating our businesses.”

Bowring is part of a live music operators group called Love You Live, which represents about two dozen local venues. He says many are experiencing some version of the same problem: their policies are running out and they’ve been refused renewal. They’ve spoken to multiple brokers and looked at companies they know insure music venues, and they’re all coming up empty.

Is this an existential threat to music venues?

Liability insurance protects a commercial space against claims resulting from injuries or damage to people or property in the space. Most venues are not open right now, or those that are have limited capacity, but many commercial leases in Toronto include a clause requiring commercial liability insurance. Without it, their landlords could evict them.

Jeff Cohen is the owner of the Horseshoe Tavern (and also a member of the group). He tells NOW he knows of at least eight venues whose liability insurance has expired since April or May – or whose will soon – and whose brokers are telling them they can’t get it renewed or find a new policy. That includes his venues (the Horseshoe and Lee’s Palace), plus the Garrison and Baby G, Phoenix Concert Theatre, Lula Lounge, Castro’s and Dakota Tavern among others.

Dakota owner Stephen Reid posted on Facebook that the venue “faces a one-month countdown to permanent closure” if the insurance situation isn’t resolved. The Ossington venue has asked for support from its community, to buy beer and snacks so they can stay afloat.

Non-music venue restaurants and bars have also been reporting insurance issues since the pandemic started. They say that their policies are ballooning, but Bowring says this is different.

“They’re saying their renewals are at rates three times higher, which is tough,” Reid says on the phone. “But we’re not even getting that. We’re just not getting renewals.”

The coalition has been working behind the scenes for two months or so before they went public, he says, trying to get meetings with Ontario politicians or people from the insurance industry to find out what’s going on and how they can resolve it. They’ve had help from the city, including the Toronto Music Advisory Council (Cohen and Bowring are both members), but insurance falls under provincial legislation. And commercial insurance is unregulated in Ontario.

“I understand there’s much bigger things gong on, lots of sectors hurting, but we’re one of them too,” Bowring says. “We’re entrepreneurs and small businesses and we have jobs depending on us.

“The [Doug Ford] government’s catch phrase is that they’re open for business. Well, it seems like they’re only open for select businesses.”

Where is the Ontario government and where are the insurance companies?

Scott Blodgett, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Finance, says the government encourages businesses to work with their insurers or brokers and ask about opportunities for premium relief or mid-term adjustments.

“We want to assure you that this government has been in regular contact with the insurance industry to raise issues concerning insurance availability and affordability during the pandemic, especially for small-business owners,” he says in a statement.

Pete Karageorgos is the director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada. He manages a consumer information centre that helps businesses, home owners and automobile owners with questions related to insurance. He says he’s seen more inquiries from businesses than usual, but not necessarily from music venues. But he’s not surprised that insurance would be an issue for them.

In the first part of the shutdown, from March to June, insurance companies across Canada provided over a billion dollars in premium relief to both individuals and businesses.

“Like businesses, insurers are grappling with new financial challenges,” he says. “They might not be willing to assume the same amount of risk.”

His suggestion for music venues is to shop around as much as possible and to negotiate.

“Even if you get a letter saying, ‘We’re not renewing you,’ ask if there’s anything you can do to adjust the deductible limit or highlight to the insurance provider that you’re a good risk, that you’re conscientious,” he advises. “At the end of the day, insurance companies want to support their clients. It’s in their best interests to make businesses succeed.”

Insurers might be seeing that music venues serve alcohol, operate at night, maybe they have dancing – and seeing that as liability risk. But many of the music venues searching for insurance aren’t even operating right now. That means their their risk of liability is actually lower than it would be before or after the pandemic. If there are no customers in the building, there is virtually no liability. Yet if they can’t get liability insurance, as soon as customers are allowed back in, the venue would be at full risk if someone were to sue.

If all venues are getting refused, could there be some collusion happening among insurance providers? It’s hard to tell because no one seems to be able to get a straight answer.

Can the city step in?

In the meantime, the Toronto Music Office and Toronto Music Advisory Committee are looking for ways to navigate the issue. In their September 24 meeting, they put forward a motion to meet with other departments at the city about potentially spearheading a group insurance plan for Toronto music venues. Then the city could potentially underwrite the policy, assume the risk and guarantee coverage of unpaid fees.

The city has been building protections for music venues, including a recently implemented property tax break, so maybe they could step in if landlords were to try to evict for lack of insurance.

For Cohen, who admits the Horseshoe has a standing and stature that smaller independent venues might not, he’s willing to operate whether or not he can get the insurance.

He’d even be willing to go to court.

“What judge is going to look at me and say I couldn’t operate because I couldn’t get liability insurance?” he says. “It’s like a band who comes to town and wants Mexican Coke in their rider. I can’t buy it if it’s not available.

 

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