on March 31, 2013 by admin in Insurance Industry, Comments (0)

CHRISTINA BLIZZARD

It's shaping up to be an unholy alliance.

Last week, it became clear that New Democratic leader Andrea Horwath and Premier Kathleen Wynne are about to offer up the insurance industry to the gods of appeasement in their quest to avoid an election.

Horwath has made a 15% rollback in insurance premiums one of her demands in return for her support to get this year's budget passed.

It's an easy give for the Liberals.

After all, it won't cost them anything. It's a populist, pocket-book issue that wins votes.

Who doesn't hate insurance companies?

One of the Liberals' key promises in the 2003 election platform that swept them to power was to freeze insurance rates -- and cut them by 10% overall in the first 90 days in office.

I'm sure you remember looking at your insurance bill and thanking Dalton McGuinty for cutting it.

No? You don't?

Hmm. That's probably because it didn't happen.

In 2003, the average Ontario premium was around $1,200, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. By 2011, that figure had risen to $1,505.

Why, you ask, would government meddle in a private industry?

Because auto insurance is compulsory, so rates are regulated through the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

The insurance industry got a major break in 2010 when the government allowed them to dramatically ratchet back benefits they pay to accident victims. Premiums remained high, and if you want better coverage, you have to pay extra.

Just as rates in this province have skyrocketed, in Quebec, Alberta and the Atlantic provinces they've either stayed the same or even been reduced.

Is the insurance industry just gouging people in this province and not Alberta?

The answer is fairly straightforward -- and yet incredibly complex.

Claims are lower in rural and northern Ontario.

In the Greater Toronto Area, however, insurance fraud and a massive backlog in the mediation-arbitration system has pushed rates to the stratosphere.

One scam is staged collisions -- often with previously damaged vehicles. Fraudsters provide fake documentation showing the vehicles had been repaired, when in fact they hadn't.

Police and ambulance would be called. All the participants would go to hospital -- and then put in fraudulent injury claims.

Tow truck drivers got kick-backs, and there's a whole scam industry of medical and rehab clinics that cash in.

Politically, though, the cut to auto insurance rates is a winner.

A motion put forward last week by Brampton-Gore-Malton New Democrat Jagmeet Singh calling for a "gradual" reduction in insurance rates passed, with the Liberals turning out in force to vote for it -- including Wynne.

Liberals and New Democrats can now point to the Tories and question why they didn't support the motion.

Tory deputy finance critic Jeff Yurek called the Liberal/NDP call for a rate rollback "bumper sticker politics."

He said the PCs can't support it because there's no plan behind it.

They agree that rates are too high but want to bring them down by implementing anti-fraud task-force recommendations.

They say they'll tackle bureaucracy in the insurance industry.

"The main thing we need to do is look at the dispute resolution mechanism. There's too much backlog in the ... system and that's keeping rates high," he said.

One thing is for sure: This is not really about insurance rates. It's all about politics -- and keeping Wynne's government alive.

It's odd that Horwath would want to do that, since recent polls show Wynne is taking support from her.
McGuinty promised a rollback. We didn't get it -- and he got re-elected.

Here's what's most likely. We'll be promised a 15% rollback and the insurance industry will get concessions on the fraud task force.

We won't actually see the rollback, because a year from now we'll all be going to the polls.

Article source: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/straighttalk/archives/2013/03/20130330-155322.html

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