When the Liberals two weeks ago announced in their budget they were “Building A Fair Society for all Ontarians” they must not have been including the disabled. No wonder the Ontario Brain Injury and Spinal Cord groups are up in arms.
Outside of lowering premiums for those who get snow tires, the government made the largest benefit reduction in the history of Ontario auto insurance. Over one million dollars in medical and care benefits will be taken from those suffering catastrophic injuries, such as quadriplegia, paraplegia, amputations, and severe brain injuries. The sting is even worse when the government had received a report from Professor Lazar and Professor Prisman of the York Schulich School of Business which stated “we estimate that consumers in Ontario may have overpaid for auto insurance by between $3 and $4 billion for auto insurance over the period 2001 to 2013”.
For the last two decades until now, the government of the day has met and consulted with all sides of the legal, insurance, and medical/rehabilitation communities in order to balance the issue of profits and the need to treat auto victims fairly. Not an easy task by any means.
In 2010 Ontario had catapulted itself to being one of the top provinces paying the least in medical benefits for minor injuries (the majority of car injuries). One justification given by the government was that they needed to cut benefits to this class of injuries so that funds would be available for those who were in most need, the catastrophically injured. In fact, in 2010 they expanded the definition of catastrophic so that people who suffered an amputation of only one limb could qualify for the increased benefits.
Who would have imagined 5 years later that the government would turn around and take a million dollars in benefits away from not only the single amputees, but those who are unable to use any of their limbs!
What is even more alarming is that the consultation process (that was afforded to those dealing with whiplash type injuries in 2010) was never given to this group.
To work, the insurance industry needs to be profitable. But how profitable? The Lazar report states that the 2013 return on equity for the average profitable insurance company was 17.5%.
The average Ontario citizen wants to drive a car and that they want lowered premiums. But premiums are going down. The full impact of the 2010 changes has not been fully realized. The new overhauled Dispute Resolution System will come into play in April 2016. This simplified and proportional system of dealing with benefits is expected to save millions in unnecessary costs and expense.
This part of the budget can only be described as an unnecessary and unjustified attack on the dignity and independence of the seriously disabled.
A press conference is being held today at Queens Park at 12:15 pm to address this injustice.
[Patrick Brown, Partner Mcleish Orlando LLP, Past President OTLA, former Chair OBA Insurance Law Section, Chair Ontario Safety League ]