BY MARYAM SHAH, TORONTO SUN
TORONTO – Changes to auto insurance benefits for motor vehicle accident victims passed in the Ontario legislature Wednesday as part of the provincial budget.
“God help us all,” Tammy Kirkwood said upon hearing the news. “We’re getting a lot less coverage for a lot more money and I’m not sure why.”
Kirkwood was one of hundreds of protesters at Queen’s Park rallying against reductions in auto insurance benefits which they say will have the most effect on victims with catastrophic injuries.
The 47-year-old Orillia woman said protesters were “flabbergasted” that the provincial government “was trying to disable our resources and our funding to recover.”
Part of the changes to auto insurance rules under the new budget mean that combined coverage for medical, rehabilitation and attendant care benefits for the catastrophically injured will be cut in half from its current cap of $2 million to $1 million.
Kirkwood survived a 2008 collision when a dump truck hit her car. She had to be pried free from her vehicle by firefighters, and was deemed catastrophically injured.
She says she was only able to move forward because she had access to the services she needed.
Unable to return to work, Kirkwood now volunteers as an advocate with FAIR Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform.
New Democratic Party MPP Jagmeet Singh spoke at the rally in support of their cause.
The cuts affect “the most vulnerable people,” such as people with brain and spinal cord injuries, he said.
“They need benefit coverage … to live an at least somewhat decent life,” Singh pointed out.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government is “working hard to create a fair and affordable insurance system” for the province’s 9.4 million drivers.
Ontario is “the only province in Canada to offer exclusive catastrophic coverage,” Kelsey Ingram said in an e-mail.
“Catastrophically impaired claimants will also continue to be able to sue an at-fault party to recover damages for health-care expenses and potentially other claims,” she added.
The provincial government is also committed to making sure any savings from these changes do not result in “excess profits” for insurance companies, Ingram said.
“This is about lowering premiums while providing support and protection for all Ontario drivers,” she said.