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BC's auto insurer targets high-risk drivers with overhaul of premiums

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British Columbia’s government-owned auto insurer is proposing changes to the way it calculates insurance premiums to better target high-risk drivers.

The proposed changes, including a move to a model in which at-fault crashes are tied to the driver instead of the person who owns the vehicle, would be revenue neutral and would not impact ICBC’s more than $1-billion deficit. The government says if the new measures were enacted today, two-thirds of drivers would pay less.

Under the changes, which will be submitted to the BC Utilities Commission for approval and would take effect in September, 2019, high-risk drivers and those who have been behind the wheel for less than 15 years would face higher premiums.

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David Eby, B.C.’s Attorney-General and the minister responsible for ICBC, at a news conference Thursday said the Crown corporation’s current model for calculating basic premiums is “broken.”

“The model ICBC uses to determine these premiums is more than 30 years old and it’s increasingly failed to ensure that drivers are held accountable for their driving habits and risk levels through their insurance rates,” he said.

Mr. Eby said under the current model, a person could have up to three crashes in a single year and still pay the same basic premium as a driver who is crash-free. “That is not fair to those who drive safely,” he said.

ICBC could not say how many drivers have had three crashes in a single year.

Joy MacPhail, ICBC’s board chair, told the news conference the message from a recent public engagement process was low-risk drivers should not be paying the same rate as some high-risk drivers.

She said it is also not fair that 80 per cent of drivers receive the maximum discount available for basic insurance.

“Eight out of 10 drivers can’t possibly have the same risk profile, especially when crashes on our roads are at an all-time high,” she said.

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The province said it has directed ICBC to file its application with the BC Utilities Commission next week. If approved, premiums would be calculated based on years of driving experience, number of at-fault crashes for all drivers using the vehicle, rate class (how the vehicle is used) and territory (where the driver lives), among other things.

Based on today’s insurance rates, ICBC said 39 per cent of drivers would see up to a $50 annual payment reduction. It said 13 per cent of drivers would see a reduction between $50 and $100, and 15 per cent would see a reduction of more than $100.

ICBC said 33 per cent of customers would see increased premiums if the changes were enacted today. It said 11 per cent would see an increase of up to $50 annually, while 5 per cent would see an increase of between $50 and 100. It said 17 per cent of drivers would see an increase of more than $100.

Mr. Eby said under ICBC’s proposal, less-experienced drivers – those who have been driving for less than 15 years – would see an increase in their premiums. He said less-experienced drivers cause a disproportionate number of crashes and fatalities in B.C. and higher premiums better reflect their risks.

Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the Opposition BC Liberals, said in a written statement the NDP government is not addressing the major problems at ICBC. He said the government should look at what’s working in other jurisdictions and implement those best practices to help lower insurance rates.

Mr. Eby has said the former Liberal government hid the financial mess at ICBC and avoided the difficult measures needed to restore its balance sheet.

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Andrew Weaver, Leader of the BC Green Party, which is supporting the NDP government, said in a written statement he was pleased with the proposed changes. He said they would ensure ICBC’s rates were more closely aligned with risk.

But Kris Sims, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, in a written statement said the provincial government needs to open ICBC up to competition. She said B.C. drivers need to have a choice in auto insurance and a chance to actually save money.

“Today’s announcement about good drivers versus bad drivers only tinkers with a clunker that needs a full overhaul,” she said.

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BC government to bring lower transgender surgery to the province

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VANCOUVER — Gwen Haworth says she always knew her gender identity, even when she was very young, but coming out about 18 years ago was a hard choice made even harder by a lack of services in her home province.

Between 2001 and 2004, Haworth said she went back and forth between Montreal and British Columbia to get gender-affirming surgery.

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The difficulties Haworth faced will soon be a thing of the past after the British Columbia government announced Friday it will provide reconstructive lower surgery for transgender people.

“Access to care was pretty fragmented, and very challenging, and hard and time consuming and costly,” said Howarth, a member of the trans community and project manager for Trans Care BC.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the trans community has advocated for a number of years for the complex surgery to be done in the province.

Up until now, those wanting the surgery had to travel to Montreal or the United States, which Dix said resulted in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distances after surgery and with follow-up care.

The Health Ministry says gender-affirming surgery will be available at Vancouver Coastal Health starting next year and trans people will also have improved access to publicly funded chest and breast surgeries in Burnaby, Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Moody, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria.

Dix said B.C. is the first province in Western Canada to provide lower surgery.

The government says about 100 people travel out of the province for lower surgeries every year and about 200 chest and breast surgeries are expected to take place in B.C. in the coming year.

Haworth said improving access to care will have a ripple effect through society.

Gender affirming surgeries, where a person’s physical body is brought into alignment with how they identify, whether it’s male, female or non-binary, came with a stigma, she said, but Friday’s announcement fosters a welcoming environment.

“It improves people’s lives and health outcomes.”

During those three years when she needed care, Haworth said the costs came in many forms. Time was taken away from her family, friends, education and work. She said she had to pay for some services herself and getting reimbursed was a challenging process. Haworth said out-of-pocket expenses worth about $35,000 were never paid back.

She also had to sell her home.

“And when I look at the place I owned at that point in time, and I move 15 years forward in the Vancouver housing market, that means I actually had to say no to over a quarter million dollars of potential well-being at this point in my life.”

The Health Ministry says the surgeries will be covered as part of the province’s B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy, which is getting a $25 million funding increasing in 2019-20 to $100 million.

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BC becomes first western Canadian province to fund gender-affirming lower surgeries

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Starting in 2019 transgender people in British Columbia will have access to publicly funded gender-affirming lower surgeries within the province. With the change British Columbia will become the first province in western Canada to offer these procedures.

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“The trans community has advocated over a number of years for improved access to care, including access to complex lower surgeries within B.C.,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix said. “For those seeking lower surgery, people were required to travel to Montreal or to the U.S., resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving followup care if there were complications.”


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The reconstructive surgeries will be available from Vancouver Coastal Health starting next year. The province has also expanded the access to gender-affirming chest and breast surgeries.

A total of 14 surgeons will provide chest and breast surgeries in Burnaby, Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Moody, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria. Previously, people had to travel to Vancouver or Victoria.


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“We are proud to be the first province in western Canada to provide these surgeries,” Dix said.

“While B.C. funded these surgeries, they weren’t being delivered close to home and support systems, and that is what we are changing now. This is about bringing care closer to home and offering an enhanced, more efficient, cost-effective solution.”

The B.C. government said the number of people travelling out of province for lower surgeries has been steadily increasing each year with approximately 100 people going outside of British Columbia for care annually. The government is now forecasting that over 200 chest and breast surgeries are expected to take place throughout B.C. in the coming year.

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“Having personally travelled out of province to access similar care, this is a significant step forward in improving the patient journey for British Columbians requiring these procedures,” trans educator Gwen Haworth said.

“Offering services closer to home reduces additional stress, uncertainties and expenses for individuals and their families. It’s reassuring to know that we will have improved access to experienced care providers throughout the entire process, within our home province.”

The expansion will be funded as part of the new B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy. The Ministry of Health has allocated $75 million in 2018-19 and $100 million in 2019-20.


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Around 1 per cent of the population, an estimated 46,000 people in B.C., identifies as trans, a term that describes a wide range of people whose gender differs from their assigned sex at birth.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of gender-affirming chest and breast surgeries performed annually has more than tripled, from 56 to 178. During the same time period, the number of annual referrals for chest and breast surgeries has doubled, from 179 to 376.

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BC to offer gender-affirming surgeries for transgender people

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Transgender people in B.C. will have access to gender-affirming lower-body surgeries within their home province as early as 2019.

On Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the surgeries will be available in the Vancouver Coastal Health region next year.

Chest and breast surgeries, which have only been available in Vancouver and Victoria, will also be expanded to cities in the Lower Mainland, Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George.

“For those seeking lower surgery, people were required to travel to Montreal or to the U.S., resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving followup care if there were complications,” Dix said.

READ MORE: Health and safety are issues for trans youth: University of B.C. survey

READ MORE: X gender identity now recognized on B.C. IDs

In B.C., an estimated 46,000 people identify as trans or gender diverse. About 100 people travel outside of the province each year for lower-body surgeries – a number that has increased steadily.

In-province surgeries reduce barriers, says educator

Gwen Howarth was one of the hundreds of British Columbians forced to travel to undergo lower-body surgery, after coming out as transgender in 2000.

“At the time, access to care was more limited and required jumping through additional hoops. Navigating through this was challenging, costly and time-consuming,” Howarth, who works with Trans Care BC, said at Friday’s news conference.

“This impacted my ability to focus on other areas of my life, and put a strain on my relationship with my family and friends and loved ones who no doubt had to listen to my endless venting about barriers to health care.”

Howarth travelled to Montreal for surgery in 2004. She was able to afford flights and accommodations while recovering, but said many in B.C. are unable to meet the high costs and have to travel alone.

“As anyone knows who has been through a significant surgery, it can be nerve-wracking and a vulnerable time.”

Howarth said the government’s move is a major step to reducing cost barriers and the stigmas faced by the trans community.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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