Svetlana Stojisavljevic - OLHI - OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance | Resolution of your Canadian Insurance Concerns | OLHI

OLHI OLHI – OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance | Resolution of your Canadian Insurance Concerns | OLHI

Mrs. T. purchased medical travel insurance ahead of a trip abroad. On that holiday, she fell ill and had to be treated in hospital. Afterward, she submitted her claim. It was declined because the insurance plan did not cover anyone who had been treated for three specific medical conditions. In its final position letter, the insurance company wrote that Mrs. T. had been treated for these conditions.

Mrs. T. contacted OLHI, asking for a free, independent review of her case. She told our Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) that she had been diagnosed and treated for two of the medical conditions. But she had never been diagnosed or treated for the third condition: hypertension/high blood pressure.

OLHI’s DRO asked Mrs. T. and her insurance company to provide all their information relating to this case. In his review, he found that Mrs. T. was taking a medication for stroke management. The medication prescribed is also used to treat blood pressure. However, this was not the reason why it was prescribed for Mrs. T. In her case, it was for stroke management.

The DRO recommended that the case be escalated to an OmbudService Officer (OSO) for further investigation. Looking at all the files, the OSO read that Mrs. T.’s doctor had confirmed with the insurance company that she had never been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Although it was acknowledged that this particular medication is often prescribed for hypertension, Mrs. T. was taking it to control her history with strokes – and not hypertension/high blood pressure.

The OSO reached out to Mrs. T.’s insurance company and recommended they revisit the case. Because of a history of strokes, controlling blood pressure was necessary but it did not mean that she was hypertensive. The insurance company agreed with the OSO’s suggestion and paid out Mrs. T.’s claim for her hospital expenses.

Disclaimer: Names, places and facts have been modified in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. This case study is for illustration purposes only. Each complaint OLHI reviews contains different facts and contract wording may vary. As a result, the application of the principles expressed here may lead to different results in different cases.

 

Mr. and Mrs. H. applied for life insurance and were approved. When her husband died several months later, Mrs. H. claimed the benefits under the policy. The insurance company denied the claim for failing to disclose information about Mr. H.’s health.

Mrs. H. brought her final position letter to OLHI. She explained to our Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) that a nurse had come to their home on behalf of the insurance company to collect blood and urine samples and fill out a questionnaire. During their conversation, Mr. H. told her about his high iron levels and his visits to a hematologist. The nurse noted “blood work normal” in her report despite his disclosure. Mrs. H. and her husband gathered the high iron was not important since the nurse did not take it into account, nor did the insurance company analyze his blood for this.

After his review of the information from Mrs. H. and the insurance company, the DRO recommended an OmbudService Officer (OSO) investigate further.

The OSO discovered that the company had not contacted the nurse to find out more about her visit with Mr. and Mrs. H. He recommended Mrs. H. contact this nurse, to see if she could validate their conversation. The nurse was unable to recall the specifics of their meeting.

While Mr. H.’s medical records showed he had been diagnosed with a blood condition, it was not disclosed in his insurance application. However, Mr. H. had signed this application, along with the report that the nurse prepared, confirming that all information provided was accurate. For this reason, the OSO recommended that there was no reason to further pursue this complaint.

Disclaimer: Names, places and facts have been modified in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. This case study is for illustration purposes only. Each complaint OLHI reviews contains different facts and contract wording may vary. As a result, the application of the principles expressed here may lead to different results in different cases.

OLHI held its annual general meeting and released its annual report for 2016/17, reporting on a year of record numbers and renewed priorities.

Highlights:

  • Complaint volumes increase by 23.2% across Canada, marking a historic high
  • Increase in complaints from Quebec (+36.2%), Prairie provinces (+25.6%) and British Columbia (+ 24.4%)
  • Public contacts exceed 87,000
  • Edmonton office established as a part of western expansion strategy

Read the news release.

Mrs. R. frequently traveled out of country. She purchased a travel health insurance plan that would cover her for 35 days every time she left Canada. She departed in February and in May, while still on her holiday, she suffered a major illness, was hospitalized and passed away two weeks later.

While Mrs. R. was in hospital, her son, Mr. R., became involved. When he and the doctors reached out to the insurance company, the company confirmed that it would be able to help. Mrs. R. was transferred from one hospital to another for specialized care – a transfer that the company helped coordinate.

The insurance company denied the claim because the policy’s coverage had expired. In its final position letter, the company told Mr. R. about how OLHI reviews matters that consumers have not been able to resolve with their company. He contacted OLHI and asked a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) to become involved.

Mr. R. told the DRO that the company confirmed several times that his mother would be covered by the policy. He had no idea that her coverage was for only 35 days because he did not find this out from the company until after incurring costs.

Because of the complexity of the complaint, the DRO recommended that an OmbudService Officer (OSO) become involved to further delve into the investigation and to determine whether there were grounds for conciliation.

The OSO reviewed documents provided by all parties. He also listened to the recordings of telephone calls between Mr. R. and the company, as well as between the hospital and the company. In these calls, the company said that it would help with the hospital transfer but that it was not a guarantee of coverage because the claim still had to be processed and reviewed for approval. In those conversations, the company did not yet know when Mrs. R. had left on her out-of-country trip.

The OSO recommended that there were no grounds to pursue. The company’s claims process included confirming the coverage period. He also agreed that while the company said that Mrs. R. had insurance coverage, it also said that her claim still had to be reviewed to confirm she met the policy’s terms of coverage.

Disclaimer: Names, places and facts have been modified in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. This case study is for illustration purposes only. Each complaint OLHI reviews contains different facts and contract wording may vary. As a result, the application of the principles expressed here may lead to different results in different cases.

Ms. C. worked as an office administrator, a predominantly sedentary role. She began to experience medical conditions that affected her back. Her employer’s group disability insurance plan covered her short-term disability claim. After several months, the insurance company denied Ms. C.’s coverage for long-term disability (LTD), stating that her illness did not prevent her from performing her job. The final position letter explained that Ms. C’s illness lacked clinical medical information to satisfy the terms of the disability contract.

After receiving this letter, which pointed to OLHI as an independent dispute resolution service, Ms. C. approached OLHI. In her review, OLHI’s Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) noted that medical reports determined Ms. C. was not fit for work and that her condition was deteriorating. Meanwhile, the insurance company interpreted the reports differently, finding there was an improvement in her condition. The DRO also questioned whether the insurance company was relying too much on looking for neurological evidence that did not directly correlate with Ms. C.’s diagnosis from her doctor and specialist.

With these questions in mind, the DRO recommended an OmbudService Officer (OSO) further investigate Ms. C.’s complaint.

OLHI’s OSO learned that the tests conducted on Ms. C. returned with negative or mild/moderate results. Medical reports recommended that she could still perform sedentary or light duties, fitting with her job description, and her doctor supported a gradual return to work program. However, Ms. C.’s employer declined the program and instead ordered an independent medical examination, which concluded that she was not fit to work. Meanwhile, other conflicting medical reports suggested that Ms. C.’s condition was deteriorating because of an unhealthy lifestyle and not because of her diagnosis affecting her back.

Given the conflicting information and the employer’s refusal to have Ms. C. return to work because of its own medical findings, the OSO recommended that the insurance company and the employer reach an agreement. With OLHI’s recommendation, Ms. C. was able to reach a settlement.

Disclaimer: Names, places and facts have been modified in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. This case study is for illustration purposes only. Each complaint OLHI reviews contains different facts and contract wording may vary. As a result, the application of the principles expressed here may lead to different results in different cases.

Mrs. U. purchased life insurance in 2006. She explained to her agent that she only wanted a policy that would cover her for 10 years and that she planned to cancel when the term expired. She said she would not be able to afford the new premiums, which would rise dramatically after 10 years.

Mrs. U.’s agent explained that a renewal notice would arrive in the mail but that she would call her before the policy was up for renewal, to confirm her intention to cancel.

In 2016, the policy’s 10-year term expired. Mrs. U. did not receive a phone call. Instead, her policy automatically renewed and higher premiums were taken out of her bank account. She contacted the insurance company and asked to cancel her life insurance policy and be reimbursed the cost of the new premiums.

Mrs. U.’s insurance company declined her request to be reimbursed. Its final position letter outlined that a renewal notice had been sent to her and she did not respond, so the policy was automatically renewed.

Mrs. U. brought this letter to OLHI for a review of her complaint. OLHI’s Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) asked her and the insurance company to send all their documents relevant to this case. In his review, the DRO studied the policy contract and also learned from Mrs. U. that she had not expected the policy to automatically renew. She thought that if she did not renew, it would lapse.

OLHI’s DRO recommended that an OmbudService Officer (OSO) further review the contract language in Mrs. U.’s policy. The OSO discovered unclear wording about policy renewal. It implied that consumers had a choice – leading them to believe their approval was required ahead of renewal. The legal principle of contra proferentem dictates that unclear language allows for consumers’ interpretations of the contract.

The OSO recommended that Mrs. U. be reimbursed the majority of the premiums. Because the renewed policy was in force and would have paid out had she died, he recommended it was not possible to reimburse 100%. Mrs. U. and the insurance company agreed.

Disclaimer: Names, places and facts have been modified in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved. This case study is for illustration purposes only. Each complaint OLHI reviews contains different facts and contract wording may vary. As a result, the application of the principles expressed here may lead to different results in different cases.

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