Summary of group benefits legislation


Amendments to Regulations under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act BC

In 2018, British Columbia made changes to the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. Bill 20 – 2018 Insurance (Vehicle) Amendment Act, 2018. As of May 17, 2018, insurers’ no longer have subrogation rights for motor vehicle accidents in BC.

Effective April 1, 2019, there were amendments to the Insurance (Vehicle) Act Regulations to clarify changes to ICBC benefits. ICBC is the 1st payor for additional health care practitioner services and some medical supplies when related to a motor vehicle accident (MVA). This includes:

  • Acupuncture, chiropractic care, clinical counselling, kinesiology, registered massage therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology.
  • Up to $1,000 for necessary medical supplies and services such as naturopathic treatments, foam rollers, and compression stockings.

There is a 60-day time limit for claimants to submit receipts to ICBC, previously it was up to two years.

For additional information, please read changing auto insurance BC.

If you have questions, contact your Manulife representative.

BC Bill 20 ends insurer subrogation rights in vehicle accidents

British Columbia’s Bill 20, the Insurance (Vehicle) Amendment Act, 2018, included changes to Section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. These changes took effect May 17, 2018.

One big change is that insurers’ have no subrogation rights for motor vehicle accidents in BC. This change affects injury and death claims caused by a vehicle, or by someone’s use or operation of a vehicle.

*Note: For insurance, subrogation is when an insurance company pays a claim to the insured, and then recovers some or all the payment from the party who was at fault in the accident.

If you have questions, contact your Manulife representative.

Saskatchewan reinstates PST exemption for life and health insurance products

On February 26, 2018, Saskatchewan premier, Scott Moe, announced that he is reinstating the 6% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) exemption for individual and group life and health insurance products.

The exemption is effective immediately and retroactive to August 1, 2017, the date when insurance premiums became taxable in Saskatchewan.

By April 10, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Finance will provide more information on how to administer the refunds.

Manitoba to reduce provincial retail sales tax on insurance starting July 1, 2019

In its 2019 budget, the government of Manitoba announced it will reduce the retail sales tax (RST) rate from 8% to 7% July 1, 2019 Information Notice.

The Manitoba RST applies to the following group benefit products:

  • Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D)
  • Critical illness
  • Disability – short and long term
  • Life

The RST does not apply to:

  • Extended health care and dental benefits
  • Administration services only (ASO) agreements

Ontario Human Rights Tribunal interim decision rules that it is discriminatory to deny group benefits to employees 65 and older.

A case between an employee and employer was recently brought before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The case related to the termination of health, dental and life insurance group benefits at age 65.

In an interim decision issued on May 18, 2018, based on the evidence presented, the Tribunal ruled that the provision of the Ontario Human Rights Code which permits employers to cease benefit coverage at age 65 is unconstitutional. The provision violates the equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is unknown if there will be an appeal on the decision. If there is no appeal, the parties have until early July to agree to mediations or return for a hearing on the tribunal ruling.

Highlights from the Ontario Budget 2018

On March 28, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced the Ontario 2018 budget. With a provincial election scheduled for June, the initiatives announced are likely dependent on the current government being re-elected.

Here are a few highlights that may affect group benefits:

1. Expansion of OHIP+ to seniors 65 and older – August 2019

OHIP+ expands to include free prescription medication for seniors age 65 and older. This means:

  • The elimination of the annual deductible and co-pay on the Ontario Drug Benefit program.
  • Savings for the average senior will be $240 per year.

2. Introduction of the Ontario Drug and Dental Program – August 2019

This program supports Ontarians without workplace health benefits, Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) coverage, OHIP+, or drug and dental coverage under any other government program.

The planned program reimburses up to 80% of eligible expenses up to a yearly maximum of:

  • $400 for a single person
  • $600 for couples
  • $50 for each child in a family

The government will be consulting on the proposed program; Manulife will participate in this process.

3. Strategy to combat the opioid crisis

In response to opioid addiction and overdoses, the government is investing more than $222 million to implement its Strategy to Prevent Addiction and Overdose as follows:

  • Expanding access to naloxone kits -- an opioid antidote -- through front-line community organizations such as police and fire services.
  • In April 2018, the Ontario Naloxone Program for Pharmacies expands to include naloxone internasal spray. This means eligible Ontarians have access to an injectable or intranasal naloxone kit from their pharmacy.

4. Increased access to publicly funded psychotherapy

This initiative’s goal is to help up to 160,000 more people across the province who suffer with anxiety and/or depression. It will:

  • Increase access to publicly funded structured psychotherapy in primary care settings and through mental health and addictions community agencies.
  • Provide standardized training to primary care teams and community mental health and addictions agencies, so that they can provide high-quality, structured psychotherapy services.

5. Amendments to the Insurance Act

Proposed amendments to the Insurance Act, if passed, would clarify the use of electronic communication by insurers and consumers, including certain insurance applications, policies and forms.

6. National pharmacare plan

The government repeated its support for a national pharmacare plan. It committed to “work with the federal government and other provinces on the formation of a national pharmacare plan …”

What Manulife Group Benefits is doing

We will monitor the progress of these proposed changes and keep you posted on next steps.

Quebec’s Bill 176 – An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards

On June 12, 2018, Québec’s Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards, came into force (the “Bill”).

Among other things, the Bill amends section 87.1 of the Act respecting labour standards. The current section reads:

“No agreement or decree may, with respect to a matter covered by a labour standard that is prescribed by Divisions I to V.1, VI and VII of this chapter and is applicable to an employee, operate to apply to the employee, solely on the basis of the employee’s hiring date, a condition of employment less advantageous than that which is applicable to other employees performing the same tasks in the same establishment.

The same applies in respect of a matter corresponding to any of the matters referred to in the first paragraph where a labour standard pertaining to that matter has been fixed by regulation”

The Bill adds the following paragraph to the end:

“Any distinction made solely on the basis of a hiring date, in relation to pension plans or other employee benefits, that affects employees performing the same tasks in the same establishment is also prohibited.”

Who is affected?

The Bill applies to Québec-based employees who fall under provincial jurisdiction. It does not apply to federally-regulated businesses (i.e. radio and television broadcasting, telecommunications, chartered banks, airports and air transportation, shipping and navigation, interprovincial and international transportation and federal government employees).

The Bill also includes a grandfather clause for distinctions based solely on hire date that existed before June 12, 2018.

What does this mean?

  • On or after June 12, 2018, any new benefit or pension plan created, or any amendment to a plan cannot treat Québec employees differently based only on hire date, if those employees are performing the same tasks in the same establishment.
  • If employees are treated differently based only on their hire date and such plan provision existed before June 12, 2018, no change is required.
  • If a plan was closed to new hires before June 12, 2018, the plan provision is still valid after June 12, 2018, since the distinction existed prior to June 12, 2018.

Non-federal employers with employees in Québec that have modified their group benefits after June 11, 2018 may have to review any changes in benefits to ensure the benefits provided are not based solely on hire date.

Employers who have employees in different provinces and amend their plan provisions for new employees may have to apply different provisions for employees in Québec.

The information above is based on a review of the Bill at the time it was passed. Since regulations have not yet been published, there may be modifications to the application of the Bill. We will provide further details once the regulations are published.

If you have any questions, contact your Manulife representative.