Insurance News – Sunday, June 7, 2015

Here are the leading auto insurance headlines from ONTARIO AUTO INSURANCE TOPICS ON TWITTER for Sunday, June 7, 2015:

  • California has a new insurance product to help close the gap in coverage for drivers driving for ride sharing companies.
  • As Michigan struggles to control costs, a State Senator proposes making auto insurance a second payer to health insurance.
  • $1,000 tickets for distracted driving, $500 for biking without a light and other laws to hit Ontario streets.  Twelve things you need to know about Bill 31.
  • Allstate says its Ride for Hire policy will cost $15 to $20 a year on average and will provide coverage for drivers using apps like Uber who get into accidents while they are on the way to pick up new fares. It said it can also help them deal with gaps in coverage between their own auto insurance and policies offered by the ride-sharing companies.
  • Hundreds rally at Queens Park against cuts to auto insurance benefits on the same day Bill 91 passes.

What the Liberal Majority Government Means For Ontario Auto Insurance

The Liberal platform for auto insurance was essentially set out in the 2014 Spring Budget which never proceeded beyond first reading before the election was called.  Now that the Liberals have a majority, it is expected that they will proceed with those commitments.  It also means the NDP will no longer be able to influence government policy.

In the Spring, the Liberals indicates that the rate reduction strategy is on target and average rates will be 8% lower by August 2014 and 15% lower by August 2015. However, the Budget document does not point to any specific initiative that will specifically work towards achieving those targets. Average rates are down 5.6% as of the end of the first quarter of 2014.

The Liberals will  have a challenge bringing down rates further without a few significant systemic changes.  More and more it appears costs have been rising over past few quarters so it should be interesting to see the second half data for 2013.  Rising costs can be attributed to a number of factors including:

  • a severe winter
  • higher claims volumes
  • the backlog of decisions awaiting arbitration
  • deterioration of reforms as parties begin to discover how to work the system
  • claims staff “fatigue”
  • residual fraud

Governments are more likely to make unpopular decisions early in a mandate than immediately before an election.  So there is a possibilities that some tougher decisions make be made on the auto insurance file to stabilize costs and ensure consumers will see lower rates.

The Premier has committed to bringing back the Legislature on July 2 to re-introduce the Budget Bill following a Throne Speech. The Budget Bill itself had no auto insurance provisions.

Instead, legislative amendments to the Insurance Act were part of Bill 171, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014 which was introduced in March 2014.  The Bill included legislative amendments for the transformation of the dispute resolution system, and further action to crack down on fraud and abuse, as well as other cost-saving measures. The government was to take further steps on developing a dedicated investigation and prosecution office on serious fraud, with an initial focus on auto insurance fraud. The development of this fraud office would be based on the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force’s principle that fraudsters should be vigorously pursued and prosecuted where evidence warrants.

There is no timetable for re-introducing Bill 171.  There were some strong objections expressed over several provisions in the Bill – barring access to the courts for accident benefit disputes and reducing the prejudgment interest rate.  It will be interesting to see if there are any changes should the Bill be re-introduced.

The Liberals had also introduced legislation to regulate the towing industry that never passed.  Bill 189, the Roadside Assistance Protection Act would require towing and storage providers to publish their rates, provide an itemized invoices, accept payment by credit card if requested and to disclose to the consumer any interest a towing and storage provider may have in a location or facility to which a vehicle may be towed for repair or storage.  If passed into law, Bill 189 would also stipulate the consumers be given access to towed vehicles in order to remove personal property.

FSCO has been proceeding with the licensing of treatment and assessment facilities on the auto insurance sector.  The licence application process opened up on June 1.  Facilities will have to be licensed on December 1 in order to submit invoices through HCAI.  Application fees were also recently announced.

Perhaps even some outstanding issues, such as the definition of catastrophic impairment and a new minor injury treatment protocol will finally be addressed.

Insurance News – Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Here are the leading auto insurance headlines from ONTARIO AUTO INSURANCE TOPICS ON TWITTER for Tuesday, June 30, 2015:

  • New KPMG report warns insurers unprepared for self-driving cars.
  • Smart cars and accident benefit cuts could decimate the personal injury bar.
  • The long history of the fight against Uber – the Luddites have returned.
  • California reveals details of self-driving car accidents.
  • Bill Gates thinks Uber has the best shot at self-driving cars.

FSCO Mandate Review Recommends Changes to Auto Insurance Regulation

The Ontario government should establish a new organization that would perform the functions currently performed by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) and the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO), an expert advisory panel said in a report released Monday.

The panel recommends that a new Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) be established, and it should exercise both prudential and market conduct functions.  The panel – comprised of George Cooke, James Daw and Lawrence Ritchie – made its recommendation to create FSRA in an interim report released in November, 2015. The final report, dated March 31, was made public Monday and contains 44 recommendations.

The mandate review was partly made necessary with the transfer of responsibility for operating an auto insurance dispute resolution system from FSCO to Ministry of the Attorney General’s Licence Appeal Tribunal on April 1, 2016.

Governance

The report suggests that FSRA should consolidate functions, but it should have separate divisions for the regulation of market conduct; prudential oversight; and pension administration. These divisions of the regulator should operate in a coordinated manner, but each division should be insulated from the routine regulatory activities, pressures and resource demands of other divisions.

FSRA should be a self-funded corporation without share capital, operationally independent of government, yet accountable to the Legislature through the Minister of Finance. The FSRA should be outside of the Ontario Public Service and be empowered to hire its personnel from outside of the Ontario Public Service’s collective agreements, compensation restraints, and other hiring restraints to support its ability to recruit professionals and industry expertise as it deems necessary.

FSRA should have a skills-based Board of Directors appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Board would oversee FSRA’s operations and the Board should have the authority to appoint a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The Board Chair should report directly to the Minister of Finance.

FSRA’s Board should be given authority to make rules that would be enforceable pursuant to the statute, having a similar authority as Cabinet Regulations.

Auto Insurance Rate Regulation

The panel did not make any recommendations with respect to the prior approval of auto insurance. However, it did recommend that FSRA’s Board should be obliged and empowered to decide how auto insurance rates are to be regulated and make use of its rule-making authority to scope out a rate approval process.

The view of the panel is that when it comes to the regulation of automobile insurance rates, FSCO is not ultimately protecting the public interest or enhancing confidence in the sector.

Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund

The panel recommends that responsibility for operating the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (MVACF) be transferred to the Facility Association (FA), a non-profit organization funded by automobile insurers in the provinces and territories that operate private insurance systems. This responsibility would fit well with the FA’s original purpose, which is to act as the ‘insurer of last resort’ for high-risk drivers. The FA already operates uninsured motorist funds similar to the MVACF in the Atlantic Provinces.

Fraud Prevention

The panel indicated that the new mandate should require FSRA to utilize its statutory authorities to adequately, firmly and consistently discourage fraudulent activities or behaviours that mislead or harm consumers and pension plan beneficiaries.

FSRA should be directed to identify and seek to eliminate gaps in protection for consumers who might be defrauded by licensed sales agents, brokers and corporations. FSRA should also  have the authority to establish a fraud compensation fund such as exists in Quebec if or where enhancements to mandatory insurance coverage would not fully close current gaps.

There is no word from the government on implementing the panel’s recommendations.

FSCO Prepared to Introduce New Minor Injury Protocols

Why is FSCO releasing new treatment protocols?
In the Superintendent’s report on the Five Year Review released in 2009, a recommendation was made to develop a treatment protocol for minor injuries that reflects current scientific and medical literature.  This recommendation was accepted by the government and confirmed in the 2012 Ontario Budget, which acknowledged that newer scientific and evidence-based approaches can be applied to the treatment of minor injuries resulting from automobile accidents.
How were the new treatment protocols developed?
In 2012, Dr. Pierre Côté, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, was awarded a consulting contract to develop the Minor Injury Treatment Protocol (MITP) after an open competitive Request For Proposal process.
The Ontario Protocolfor Traffic Injury Management Collaboration includes a multidisciplinary team of expert clinicians (from medical, dental, physiotherapy, chiropractic, psychological, occupational therapy and nursing disciplines), academics and scientists (epidemiologists, clinical epidemiologists and health economists), a patient liaison, a consumer advocate, a retired judge and automobile insurance industry experts.  I played a small role on the project team.
Over the 2-year course of the project, the project team drew upon three sources of information concerning traffic injury rehabilitation.
1.    The team critically reviewed the contents and evidentiary basis of published clinical practice guidelines for the management of traffic injuries.
2.    They carried out an exhaustive search followed by a rigorous methodological evaluation of the current scientific literature concerning the management of traffic injuries published in peer-reviewed journals in the English language. They screened 234,995 abstracts and conducted in depth reviews of 597 scientific papers. This effort was summarized in 43 new systematic reviews of the literature.
3.    They also conducted a new study in which they gathered and carefully considered the narratives of Ontarians who have sustained injuries in traffic collisions and received health care.
The Final Report of the Minor Injury Treatment Protocol Project, titled “Enabling Recovery from Common Traffic Injuries: A Focus on the InjuredPerson” (Final Report) was delivered to FSCO at the end of December 2014
What does the Final Report recommend?
The Final Report recommends a new classification of traffic injuries. The natural history of the initial injury is the basis for classification. A Type I injury is likely to recover within days to a few months of the collision; but during the period of recovery the patient may benefit from education, advice, reassurance and time-limited evidence-based clinical care. Type I injuries are the focus of this report. A Type II injury is not likely to undergo spontaneous recovery, and the injured person may require medical, surgical and/or psychiatric/psychological care. Type III injuries are a subset of Type II injuries, that involve permanent catastrophic impairment or disability. The care for Type II and Type III injuries is not covered in this report.
Persons with Type I injuries should be educated and reassured from the outset that their own inherent healing capacities are likely to lead to a substantial recovery. They should also be informed that only a discrete set of treatments show evidence of any benefit; and that the same evidence shows that benefit is largely on the basis of pain alleviation. Healthcare professionals need to listen to the patient’s concerns and emphasize measures to assist them to cope, recognize and avoid complications.
The MITP includes clinical prediction rules to screen for patients who may be at higher risk for developing chronic pain and disability. In addition, it focuses on treatment outcomes, and provides health care providers with numerous milestones to measure progress.
Interventions for Type I injuries should only be provided in accordance with published evidence for effectiveness, including parameters of dosage, duration, and frequency; and within the most appropriate phase. The emphasis during the early phase (0-3 months) should be on education, advice, reassurance, activity and encouragement. Health care professionals should be reassured and encouraged to consider watchful waiting and clinical monitoring as evidence-based therapeutic options during the acute phase. For injured persons requiring therapy, time-limited and evidence-based intervention(s) should be implemented on a shared decision-making basis, an approach that equally applies to patients in the persistent phase (4-6 months).
Sixteen care pathways have been developed to cover the clinical management of:
·         Neck pain and associated disorders
·         Soft tissue disorders of the upper extremities
·         Temporomandibular disorders
·         Mild traumatic brain injuries
·         Low back pain
What’s next?
FSCO had been conducting a consultation process with stakeholders.  Before any final guidelines can be implemented, the government will need to make changes to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule. 

The complexity of the proposed changes will require a substantial educational initiative.  Clinicians and insurance company claims staff will need to be educated and trained on the recommended care pathways.  In some cases there may be resistance.  In addition, it is advisable that a public education campaign be undertaken to educate the general public on the proper management of soft tissue injuries.  It is not clear who would fund such a significant education campaign.  

Government Posts Proposed Changes to DRS Regulations

The Ministry of Finance has posted proposed changes to Insurance Act regulations to provide for the transition the Automobile Insurance Dispute Resolution System from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT), and the wind down of disputes filed at FSCO. 

Proposed amendments include:

 • The last date for submitting applications for mediation, neutral evaluation, or the appointment of an arbitrator to FSCO will be March 31, 2016. 

 • An application for an appeal to the FSCO Director of Arbitrations will only be accepted where the application for the appointment of an arbitrator was received by March 31, 2016. 

 • As well, an applications for a variation or revocation to the FSCO Director of Arbitrations will only be accepted where the application for the appointment of an arbitrator was received by March 31, 2016. 

 • The Office of the Director of Arbitrations will continue to function until all notices of appeal and all applications for variation or revocation have been finally determined. 

 • Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) provisions that apply to the dispute resolution process at FSCO will continue to apply, as they read on March 31, 2016, to all applications that were received by FSCO before the transition date but are not finally determined before that date. The SABS will also be amended, where necessary, to apply to applications filed at the LAT on or after April 1, 2016.

Ontario’s Rate Reduction Strategy Likely To Fall Short

This week FSCO released rate filings approved for third quarter of 2014.  Nine insurers, representing 26.65% of the market based on premium volume, had rates approved in the third quarter of 2014. Approved rates decreased on average by 0.11% when applied across the total market.

In the backdrop is the Ontario government’s commitment to reduce rates in the province by 15% before August 15, 2015.  The chart below breaks down the quarterly rate approval changes following the announcement of the rate reduction strategy last year. The third quarter of 2013 has been included although many of the rate approvals for that quarter may have been filed well before the strategy was announced. 

Quarter
Rate Change
2013 – 3Q
-0.68%
2013 – 4Q
-3.98%
2014 – 1Q
-1.01%
2014 – 2Q
+0.22%
2014 – 3Q
-0.11%

The accumulative rate reductions approved by FSCO during this period have been under 6%. With just 10 months remaining, the government is considerably short of its target with no real strategy to bring down rates another 9-10%.


Bill 15, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014 will likely be passed by the legislature within the next 10 months.  The Bill contains provisions to transform Ontario’s auto insurance dispute resolution system into a more robust system. Other provisions would regulate the towing and vehicle storage industries through measures that tackle questionable practices. The bill would amend provisions in the Repair and Storage Liens Act and give the province authority to change the current 60-day period that a vehicle can be stored after an accident, accruing charges, without notice to the owner. The government has also served notice through the Regulatory Register that it will reduce the rate of interest on overdue SABS payments.

However, all of these initiatives as well as the proposed legislation to regulate the towing industry and the expected introduction of a new minor injury protocol could not possible bring down rates a further 9% in less that a year. 

Catch Me At Bookapalooza on November 19th

On Saturday I will be signing copies of THE ROAD AHEAD at Bookapalooza in Whitby. It’s a great event with books and crafts for sale, panel discussions, giveaways and a silent auction.  There will also be a draw for free signed copy of my novel, which will make a nice gift with the holidays coming up.



No New Auto Insurance Commitments in 2014 Ontario Fall Economic Statement

The auto insurance focus of this year’s Ontario Economic Statement is consumer protection although not everyone is going to agree that these measures are strictly to protect consumers. The statement provides a summary of government activity that is ongoing.

The government claims it is taking steps to keep auto insurance affordable.  As a result of the government’s Auto Insurance Cost and Rate Reduction Strategy, FSCO rate approvals fell by than six per cent on average from August 2013 to August 2014. Although it is not always clear what impact that will have on the paying public.  However, the commitment was for an eight per cent reduction during that time period.

The government has taken action to address over half of the recommendations made by the Auto Insurance Anti‐Fraud Task Force, including key proposals to enhance the Financial Services Commission of Ontario’s (FSCO) investigation and enforcement authority and make it easier for individuals to report suspected auto insurance fraud.

Licensing of health service providers in the auto insurance system, a key Task Force proposal, will become fully effective on December 1, 2014.

The government is also committed to establishing a Serious Fraud Unit, whose initial mandate would include addressing auto insurance fraud. Establishing such a dedicated investigation and prosecution unit would be consistent with the Task Force’s conclusion that cases of suspected auto insurance fraud should be vigorously pursued and prosecuted where evidence warrants.

Bill 15, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014, is working its way through the legislative process and has recently had second reading and undergone a very brief review by a legislative standing committee.  If passed, Bill 15 would:

  • Transfer Ontario’s auto insurance dispute resolution system to the Licence Appeal Tribunal and make significant changes to help injured drivers settle disputed claims faster; 
  • Regulate the towing and vehicle storage industries through measures that tackle questionable practices; and
  • Give the government authority to change the current 60‐day period that a vehicle can be stored after an accident, accruing charges, without notice to the owner. 

Rates are directly linked to claims costs.  So in addition to reducing fraudulent activity and abuse, Bill 15 also will reduce costs in the system.  That is where some of the controversy lies.  The government plans to align prejudgment interest rates on pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) to what are typical rates in today’s market. That will reduce the rate to 1.3% (from 5%) on pecuniary damages.