Straight Talk
EDITORIAL - Ontario auto insurance system a disgrace

Credits: QMI AGENCY

QMI AGENCY

We disagree with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's call for Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne to cut auto insurance premiums by 15%. It's simplistic, would throw thousands of people in the industry out of work and wouldn't help consumers because insurers would just jack up their rates on other products.

That said, we agree with Horwath the current system is broken.

There have been six rounds of auto insurance reform since 1990, the last one a dramatic lowering of accident benefits paid to crash victims in 2010, approved by the provincial government at the behest of the industry. Despite that, Ontarians continue to pay the highest insurance premiums in the country, for coverage which often isn't there when they need it.

Premiums continue to rise while legitimate accident victims with serious injuries have to wait up to two years, just to get to mediation and arbitration hearings, when insurers deny their claims. Numerous court cases have shown insurers going to unconscionable lengths to deny benefits to catastrophically injured victims.

Claims adjusters are making medical assessments they are clearly unqualified to do. Doctors work for insurers, with the sole intention of denying all claims.

Auto insurers counter the real culprit driving up premiums and delaying payouts to legitimate claimants is fraud.

The industry estimates the cost at up to $1.6 billion a year - 10% of all claims - carried out at every level of the system from claimants, to tow-truck drivers, repair shops, doctors, lawyers, medical and rehab clinics, paralegals and insurance industry employees.

However, Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter reported in December, 2011 that the province still doesn't have an effective system for combatting fraud.

But he also found other factors contributing to higher premiums. For example, the province allows insurers to increase their premiums based on a "reasonable rate of return" of 12% on equity. Problem is, that figure hasn't been changed since 1996, when the long-term Canadian bond rate was 10%, compared to 2%-3% today.

Ontario's auto insurance system has become a guide for the guilty, meaning the fraudsters, and a trap for the innocent, meaning legitimate accident victims and honest motorists.

Ontarians need to hear from all three political parties, how they intend to fix it.

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