Alliance of Community Medical and Rehabilitation Providers



    
                 Higher Profits for Auto Insurance Companies
                     or Protection for Accident Victims?
        Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan Has a Decision to Make
    

    TORONTO, May 14 /CNW/ - The Ontario government is considering regulatory
changes that will give auto insurance companies windfall profits and leave
accident victims without the protection they need.
    Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is now reviewing recommendations from the
Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) that would, if implemented,
slash basic accident benefits from $100,000 to $25,000 without any reduction
in the premiums people pay for insurance. A decision is expected by the end of
June.
    The insurance industry is crying poor, and FSCO seems to have bought the
industry's argument hook-line-and-sinker. Yet insurance companies made $2.8
billion last year. Not bad in an economic downturn said to be the worst since
the Great Depression. As well, the industry had a return on equity of more
than 7 per cent while the rest of us were losing 35 per cent on our
investments.
    "Minister Duncan has a choice to make - he can stand up to the insurance
lobby and ensure that people seriously hurt in car crashes get the medical and
rehabilitation services they need; or he can cave to the industry and give the
insurance companies the profits they want," says Nick Gurevich, a spokesperson
for the Alliance of Community Medical and Rehabilitation Providers.
    "If Minister Duncan adopts the proposals, we'll still be paying the same
amount or more in insurance premiums, but we'll be getting a lot less if we're
injured in a car crash. A nice deal for the insurance firms; highway robbery
for the nine million motorists in the province," Gurevich notes.
    Each year there are some 60,000 individuals injured as a result of motor
vehicle accidents in Ontario. That's approximately the population of North
Bay, or Leamington, or Cornwall. Many of these people are seriously hurt,
requiring months and sometimes years of rehabilitation. With only $25,000 of
basic benefits, they'll run out of this coverage long before they get better.
    Minister Duncan might argue that consumers will be able to purchase
optional coverage. But based on past buying decisions, people typically do not
'buy up' - and the industry knows it. Most select the basic coverage to save
money, and this is especially true in tough economic times.
    Under the proposed new system, a maximum of only $25,000 would be
available to accident victims for such serious injuries as: loss of a limb;
blindness in one eye; brain injury; multiple fractures; partial paralysis; or
major burns.
    As well, pedestrians and cyclists who do not have their own insurance and
are struck by motor vehicles will also receive only $25,000 in accident
benefits if those drivers have only the basic coverage. In other words,
they'll be at the mercy of decisions made by others.
    As these victims quickly exhaust their benefits under the proposed new
regime, they'll be thrown onto the public health system where either the
services they need are unavailable or the wait times are so long that timely
intervention becomes impossible. "This tidal wave of accident victims pouring
into the public heath care system, which is already overburdened, will
entirely overwhelm it," says Patricia Howell, an Alliance member and an
occupational therapist who provides rehabilitation services to auto accident
victims.
    The Alliance is asking Minister Duncan to make the right choice, to take
care of people before profits, to protect the consumers of this province by
rejecting the FSCO recommendations and maintaining the current level of basic
accident benefits.
    "At a minimum, he should delay any regulatory changes and consult broadly
with the public. Most people are completely unaware of these issues. They have
a right to be fully informed and heard. Otherwise the government could be
accused of trying to rush this through," notes Howell.
    The Alliance urges consumers to contact their MPP and email Finance
Minister Dwight Duncan directly at dwight.duncan@ontario.ca. As well,
consumers can sign an online petition at www.feelinglucky.ca.

    The Alliance of Community Medical & Rehabilitation Providers is a
coalition of 43 organizations in Ontario providing direct clinical services to
victims of motor vehicle accidents and employing physiotherapists,
occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, chiropractors, social
workers, psychologists, case managers and family physicians.





For further information:

For further information: Rachel Sa, PR POST, office (416) 777-0368, cell
(416) 454-7713

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REHAB RESULTS INC.

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