Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Auto Insurance Annoucements in the 2012 Ontario Budget


In 2010, the government made major changes to the auto insurance system. As a result, premiums are stabilizing for drivers across Ontario. Building on the success of the 2010 reforms, the government is taking action to tackle fraudulent and abusive practices, base insurance benefits on scientific and medical principles, and ensure its regulator continues to identify and respond to new and emerging issues. The government’s ongoing work in the area of auto insurance, including fraud, should continue to reduce the pressure on premiums.

Chart 1.9: Auto Insurance Rates Held Below Inflation Since 2003

Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force

The government remains committed to combating insurance fraud and continues to support the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force. The Task Force was announced in the 2011 Budget and delivered an interim report in December 2011. The government is working with stakeholders to address the Task Force’s early recommendations and has already:

  • enhanced auto insurance fraud training for police officers;
  • started a pilot project using the Health Claims for Auto Insurance database, which will allow health care providers to flag clinics that are misusing their credentials and cut down on identity theft;
  • amended regulations to ensure that treatments are provided as invoiced;
  • issued a Superintendent’s Guideline to ensure that insurers are not being invoiced for medical devices at a significantly higher than market rate;
  • encouraged the industry to communicate the issue of fraud across a number of media platforms, and measure the current state of consumer engagement and awareness on the issue; and
  • required CEOs of automobile insurers in Ontario to annually attest that their accident benefit cost controls are effective and that legitimate claimants are treated fairly.

The Task Force recommended that the government should provide the Superintendent of Financial Services with the power to impose administrative monetary penalties for contraventions of legislation and regulations. The government is proposing amendments that will provide this authority in order to enhance regulatory effectiveness.

The Task Force is continuing its important work this year. Since the interim report, it has been building relationships with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and Crime Stoppers to share best practices in fraud prevention.

The Task Force’s final report will provide recommendations on the following:

  • regulation of health clinics;
  • other gaps in regulation;
  • establishment of a dedicated fraud unit;
  • consumer education and engagement strategy; and
  • a single web portal for auto insurance claimants.

Scientific and Evidence-Based Approaches

Scientific and medical knowledge on how to identify and treat a variety of injuries has improved remarkably over the last decade. The government will ensure, where possible, that insurance regulations reflect the most relevant science on identifying and treating injuries from automobile accidents. Clarity will help minimize disputes in the auto insurance system, ensure people get the treatment they need and ensure that treatments provided are based on medical evidence.

Newer scientific and evidence-based approaches can be applied to serious and minor automobile accident injuries. Recommendations on a new Minor Injury Guideline, based on the latest research on successful treatment, are being developed. The government has also received the report of the Superintendent of Financial Services on catastrophic impairment based on the work of an expert panel. The government will make the Superintendent’s report public and will move forward to propose regulatory amendments in this area.

Modern Insurance Regulation

Ontario’s insurance regulator, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), will continue to modernize to meet today’s challenges. The government has welcomed the recommendations of the Provincial Auditor General, which will strengthen the oversight of the auto insurance system in particular. The government will further enhance the effectiveness of FSCO regulation of the insurance sector by proposing to:

  • engage in a review of the automobile insurance dispute resolution system;
  • strengthen the Superintendent’s authority regarding Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices;
  • clarify the Superintendent’s authority regarding rate and risk classification approvals;
  • support a Superintendent’s review of the profit provision benchmark in auto insurance rate change approvals;
  • work with insurers to explore the implications of voluntary usage-based auto insurance policies;
  • harmonize the timing of statutory automobile insurance reviews; and
  • improve solvency supervision of Ontario insurers.

Analysis and comments to follow.

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