The B.C. government has officially put into place regulations that will save ICBC $1 billion a year but will fundamentally change the way people get paid out.
Attorney General David Eby has signed off on 21 pages of regulations that put a new limit of $5,500 on pain and suffering for minor injury claims.
“These changes to ICBC’s accident benefits will cost an estimated $200 million annually,” reads a release from the attorney general’s office. “This will be offset by an estimated saving of $1.2 billion per year through reduced legal costs, a limit on payouts for pain and suffering for minor injuries and a new dispute resolution model, resulting in projected net savings of $1 billion annually.”
The province has updated the fees and types of treatments covered by ICBC, such as acupuncture and counselling, starting April 1, 2019 for both new and existing claims. Minor injuries are defined as physical injuries that have impacts that last no longer than 12 months.
ICBC has worked with medical experts in the province to assess reasonable times for claimants to recover.
One of the controversial elements of the changes includes classifying concussions as minor injuries.
“Through consultation with the medical community and looking at the experiences of other jurisdictions, it became clear B.C.’s minor injury definition should include mild concussions,” reads an information document prepared for the attorney general.
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But if psychological injuries, including minor concussions, last longer than four months, the caps no longer apply. If any physical injury lasts longer than 12 months, in those cases caps will not exist.
“Diagnosis and the supporting treatment plan will remain in the hands of medical experts, not ICBC,” reads the document on concussions provided to the attorney general. “Doctors will also have access to a second opinion on diagnosis or treatment from a Registered Care Advisor of their choice. There will be a new, independent dispute resolution system for customers if they disagree with a decision to classify their injuries as minor.”
Changes to new and increased accident benefits, such as wage loss, will also come into effect for accidents occurring on or after April 1, 2019.
The new claim caps are the most significant change to accident benefits in 25 years. The cost of minor injury claims has increased 265 per cent since 2000. British Columbia is the last province in Canada to take this kind of action.
The province is also applying an increase in the care available for anyone injured in a crash, regardless of fault. The overall medical care and recovery cost allowance was doubled to $300,000 in February and is now in effect.
Disputes over certain motor vehicle injury claims, including the classification of an injury, will be adjudicated by B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal. The independent body already adjudicates strata and small claims disputes in the province.
“We’re putting ICBC’s priority back where it should be — providing fair, affordable rates for British Columbians and giving drivers peace of mind with appropriate care if they are in a collision,” said Eby in February.
The public insurer now covers a greater variety of treatment services and is doubling wage loss payments to $740 per week, almost doubling home support benefits to $280 per week, tripling funeral cost coverage to $7,500 and increasing death benefits to $30,000.
Doctors of BC, a voluntary association of physicians, medical residents and medical students in the province, was consulted in the creation of the regulations. In a press release, the organization says the changes will “streamline processes by reducing paperwork” and provide more clinical autonomy to physicians.
“By working together with ICBC, we are hopeful that these changes will help people receive the care they need and focus on getting better,” says Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of BC. “Eliminating unnecessary paperwork also allows doctors to spend more time with our patients.”