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Breaking Down The Cost of a Funeral In Canada

November 20th, 2017

There comes a time in everyone's life when the subject of death has to be brought to the table. Nobody likes to think about it, let alone discuss the topic with their family, but putting off important decisions about final preparations will only make things more difficult for the loved ones you leave behind.

Making final arrangements ahead of time will take a lot of pressure off your survivors. Planning ahead lets everyone know what arrangements have to be made and how much it will cost, freeing them to deal with their grief without worrying about what to do next.

Costs and Arrangements

The cost can vary dramatically, depending on what you want. Eric Vandermeersch, founder and CEO of Basic Funerals, says after-death costs can be as low as $1,500 or as high as $20,000, with the average being around $8,500. He says the cost varies based on personal preferences, culture and values.

“It’s like saying I want to buy a car, what should I budget for,” Vandermeersch explains. “There are a lot of options. There are people looking for just the basics and there are people looking for more traditional ceremonies.”

These are some post-death arrangements you’ll need to consider. Prices are approximate and vary by city and province.

Death certificate ($15-$22) and registration ($55)

Every death must be legally registered before a death certificate can be issued. A death certificate is needed to apply for benefits, make an insurance claim and settle the estate. Costs for the certificate and registration varies by municipality and depends on the number of certificates reqested.

Transferring the body ($100 and up)

Transfer service fees vary based on how many times and how far the body needs to be moved. For example, the body may need to be moved from the place of death or transported to a cemetery or crematorium. You don't necessarily have to use a professional transfer service unless the body needs to be moved out of the province. Obviously, this will cost much more.

Shroud, casket or urn ($0-$3,000 and up)

Caskets and urns come in a wide variety of styles – and prices. From simple to elaborate. Or you can choose the no-cost option – a shroud. Some cemeteries allow you to bury the body in a simple shroud and the crematorium may let you use your own container for the ashes. Even though the funeral home will try to sell you a casket or urn, you don't have to buy from them. You may be able to find a better deal elsewhere.

Preparing the body ($125-$525)

Body preparation consists of bathing and grooming (applying make-up, if you like), then wrapping or dressing. You can also have the body embalmed. Although embalming is recommended, it may not be legally required in your province.

Ceremonies (funeral, visitation, memorial) plus staffing fees ($2,000 or more)

According to Vandermeersch, the sky is the limit when it comes to ceremonies in funeral homes, churches or chapels. “These costs go up because there are more staffing fees to consider, especially when a casket is involved, and then you might have a reception with food.” Of course, formal services aren't mandatory. Family members can have an intimate service in their own home without a special license or permit as long as they’re not being paid.

Burial plots and niches ($1,000 or more)

Family plots and side-by-side plots are generally highly desirable, making them more expensive, however single plots are often quite pricey, as well.

Cremation or burial services ($1,000 and up)

Vandermeersch says the number of Canadians choosing cremation is rising, especially direct cremations, the cheapest option.

Average Funeral Costs Per Province

British Columbia – $1,000 to $12,000. The professional service fee funeral directors charge usually covers transportation of the deceased, death certificate, registration and all the necessary documents.

Alberta – $4000 to $12,000, with the majority costing about $6000.00 – $8000.00.

Saskatchewan – The average cost is about $7,775. This includes a traditional funeral, casket and vault. Cemetery costs, the plot, opening and closing the grave and a grave marker can easily cost another $1,500 to $2,500.

Manitoba – A traditional burial (including a casket, funeral and cemetery costs) averages about $7,000 to $10,000. A $100 surcharge applies to graves dug during the winter.

Ontario - $1,500 to $20,000. Personal preference plays a big role in how a funeral will cost.

Quebec – A typical traditional funeral and burial costs about $9,000.

New Foundland and Labrador – Average funeral costs about $8,000, not including cemetery costs, plot, marker or opening and closing the grave, which can all add up to about another $1,500 to $2,500.

Nova Scotia – The average cost of a traditional funeral is $10,495.

New Brunswick – Funerals in New Brunswick cost about $9,000.

Prince Edward Island – Typical funerals and burials are about $9,000.

Funeral Costs Around the Globe

Tokyo, Japan - $1,629 to $80,393 (¥200,000 to ¥10 million)

Mexico City, Mexico - $482 to $11,568 (7,500-180,000 Pesos)

New York City, United States - $8,000 to $10,000

Toronto, Canada - $1,135 to $9,727 ($1,400 - 12,000 CAD)

London, United Kingdom - $7,433 (£4,836)

Beijing, China - $6,905 (42,837 Yuan)

Rome, Italy - $6,767 (€6,000)

Johannesburg, South Africa - $3,218 (40,000 ZAR)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - $1,906 to $2,722 (7,000-10,000 Dh)

Moscow, Russia - $830 (46,108 RUB)

We’ve Got The Answers: My Father Had A Stroke; Can He Get A Life Insurance Policy?

November 16th, 2017

Today's Question: My father had a stroke; can he still get a life insurance policy?

The short answer is yes, he should be able to get a policy. The long answer really depends on the type of policy, and the severity and time of the stroke. These factors can potentially affect the insurance application.


If it was a serious stroke and one that occurred recently, he is going to want to look at a simplified issue-type policy. These policies have no medical tests and a series of health questions. The more questions he can answer no to, the better the premium.

If the stroke was a little less serious, things are stable and it happened a while back, a fully underwritten application would be the best to look at. With these types of applications, there is going to be a full series of health questions, a medical test, and they will also write his doctor to verify the details around the stroke.

He can also obtain a preliminary inquiry, where the broker checks with the insurance company to see if he is likely to get approved for coverage, if there is going to be a rating, or if he is going to be declined. If it looks like he is going to be declined, you're going to want to go the simplified issue route as that is going to contain the better options. Some of the simplified issue policies, however, do ask if the applicant has been declined in the past. It is best to avoid that if at all possible.

It is best to speak with a broker who understands the various companies and policies to ensure the best rate for any individual situation.


Have more insurance questions? We have more answers for you here!



Life Insurance and Foreign Travel

November 5th, 2017
Tourists by Claus Rebler
Where you go and
where you’ve been
for the holiday season
can have a major impact
on your insurance premiums.
Photo by Claus Rebler

With the holiday season fast approaching, many people are looking to get out of dodge for a little rest and relaxation. However, past and future travel plans can have a big impact on life insurance premiums.

(Life Insurance and Foreign Travel continued...)


A Life Insurance Evolution: Intelligent Application vs Electronic Application

October 25th, 2017



I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Suska, the National Director of Sales for individual insurance with Humania Assurance Inc. We discussed Humania's intelligent application process and what really distinguishes it from electronic applications which have been around for many years.

Basic Difference

Electronic Application is essentially a fillable paper application. There are some unique advantages in that it makes sure that no questions are missed on the application and it helps with brokers like myself who have less than perfect penmanship! The underwriting process is essentially the same as on a paper application.

The Intelligent Application process, designed by Humania Assurance, is completely different. It is essentially like having a junior underwriter built into the software. The software makes real-time decisions based on the information being input into the application. There are certain basic questions that everyone must complete, but based on the answers to those questions, additional questions will appear to help better facilitate the underwriting process.

Michael states, "We prefer to focus on the results rather than the process of the application as this is what the broker and the consumer are really interested in."

  • We approve 60% of our applications on the spot.
  • There is a reduced need for medical tests. Our research indicated that 97% of the time, a medical test was ordered and resulted in no new information, which essentially bogs down the application process and creates extra work for the broker and the consumer. 
  • Fewer attending physician statements (APS) are needed. Ordering APS' can be expensive and very time consuming, often delaying the approval of the application several weeks and sometimes months.

One of the things Michael goes on to say is, "one of the things I enjoy most about working with Humania Assurance Inc is that we are looking to revolutionize the industry and create a process that is easier and more productive for everyone involved."


The Biggest Life Insurance Mistakes

October 25th, 2017

As part of our Life Insurance Expert series, we asked 10 Financial Experts what they think is the biggest Life Insurance mistake people make.

Here is what they had to say:

#1 Ellen Roseman – Personal Finance Columnist, The Toronto Star

A common mistake is to underestimate the amount of income you can earn from what appears to be a large amount of life insurance. In 2005, I did a column about a man who died at age 45, with $2 million in life insurance for his stay-at-home wife and three young kids. The widow was left with $1.75 million after paying off debts. She invested the proceeds in guaranteed deposits at 3 per cent, which gave her $45,000 to live on (not enough, even with rent from a basement apartment). Mark Halpern, CFP, TEP and Insurance Specialist in Life, Income Protection, Retirement, and Estate Planning, who gave me this example, said he had tried to persuade the man to buy more than $2 million in life insurance. Today, the widow would be making 2 per cent or less on her guaranteed deposits, showing that you need to buy bigger policies at a time of lower interest rates.”

#2 Jamie Golombek – Managing Director, Tax and Estate Planning at CIBC Private Wealth Management

They don’t buy nearly enough term insurance or disability insurance for income protection.”

#3 Jonathan Chevreau – CFO of the Financial Independence Hub

People's biggest mistake might be cashing out their whole-life policies just to raise funds in a temporary cash crunch then to be without coverage when it’s really needed as a consequence of that earlier decision. (I know a couple that is in exactly this situation, with the Grim Reaper now approaching the older partner.)”

#4 Gail Vaz-Oxlade – Financial Columnist, Author and TV Host

Not buying enough or the right kind of life insurance for their specific needs.”

#5 Jim Yih – Blogger, Fee-Only Advisor, Best-Selling Author –

Not having enough coverage and buying insurance that uses post-claim underwriting.”

#6 Bryan Borzykowski – Business and Financial Writer and Editor

Not buying when they start a family. It's so cheap when you're in your in your early 30s that it really shouldn't be put off. You never know what will happen. I think the monthly rate is worth the peace of mind.”

#7 Barry Choi – Budget Travel and Personal Finance Expert at

Not having enough of it, or thinking we're invincible. Insurance isn't just in case of death. If we ever become disabled, it could wreck our earning potential.”

#8 Sheryl Smolkin – Journalist, Retirement Redux

I think that people who fudge their medical questionnaires or do not disclose information about pre-existing conditions are just asking for trouble. Another BIG mistake is when people forget to change their beneficiaries in the case of divorce. It’s an invitation for future litigation when your ex and your new spouse claim the benefits on your death. Finally, never buy mortgage insurance for a whole bunch of reasons, including the fact that the premiums on mortgage insurance stay the same throughout the term (five years, for example), but the payout, if there is one, shrinks with the mortgage.”

#9 Sean Cooper – Pension Analyst and Financial Journalist

I’m not a big fan of mortgage insurance. I wrote a blog -- "Why You Should Avoid Mortgage Life Insurance" -- for the Housing Block. CBC Marketplace has covered this type of life insurance many times. I think a lot of homebuyers make the mistake of not opting out when they sign up for their mortgage. They assume they have sufficient coverage with mortgage insurance and forgo buying term life insurance. Then, tragedy strikes -- the breadwinner dies and the spouse is left raising the children on their own. The spouse is relieved he or she has mortgage insurance – until the claim is denied.”

#10 Lorne Marr – Founder of LSM Insurance

Not buying enough life insurance or not buying any at all. Life Insurance is the most unselfish purchase someone can make because its not for you. This combined with the fact that most people don't won't to think about their own death leave a lot of people grossly under insured.”

The experts all agree that one of the biggest mistakes Canadians make when buying life insurance is that they are not buying enough. For more information about how much coverage you need for your situation, give us a call at 1-866-899-4849 or check out our Quick Needs Analysis.

What Makes Humania Assurance Inc Different – Q&A with Michael Suska

October 24th, 2017

Michael Suska
National Sales Director at Humania Assurance


Can you tell me a little bit about your background? How did you get started in the insurance industry?

I started in the life insurance industry in January 1998 with Great West Life as a disability insurance specialist. I joined Humania Assurance Inc seven and a half years ago and I am currently the National Director of Sales for Individual Insurance.

What are some of the things you find most enjoyable about working with Humania?

Humania is a company that definitely sees the future and acts upon it. We have been able to create the most intelligent and user-friendly insurance application in Canada, HuGO.

What are three things a lot of consumers and brokers may not know about Humania?

  1. As mentioned above, we have the most advanced life insurance technology in Canada.
  2. We have been selling life insurance in Canada since 1874.
  3. We are a mutual insurance company. Therefore, if the company ever demutualized (there are currently no plans to do so), all of our policyholders would potentially get a stake in the potential demutualization proceeds.

What is unique about the Hugo application process?

The HuGO application is really the first of its kind. It's an intelligent application vs the more common electronic application. The intelligent application is basically like having a built-in junior underwriter in your software. The results of 60% of our applications showed being approved on the spot, less medical tests, and the need for fewer attending physician statements (APS). An interesting stat appeared when developing HuGO - 97% of the medical tests we ordered didn't lead to any new information and just resulted in bogging down the application process. So we decided to eliminate the concept of automatic medical requirements.  We only order when absolutely necessary.

Can you give us a rundown of Humania's no medical, critical illness, and disability plans?

We have a unique eligibility process with only six eligibility questions. This means we can help people who would not normally qualify for insurance (life, critical, and disability coverage). Our no medical simplified issue policies provide up to $300,000 of life insurance, $100,000 of critical illness insurance, and $2,500 a month of disability insurance.



How A Good Nights Sleep Could Save You Money on Your Life Insurance

October 23rd, 2017

To be happy, healthy and productive, you need to get enough sleep.

People who take care of their health and aim for longevity deserve to pay less for life insurance and sleep is an important factor for good health throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep can help protect your physical health, mental health, safety and quality of life.

How you feel during your waking hours depends on how well you have slept. While sleeping, your body continues to work on maintaining physical health and supporting healthy brain function. In children, sleep also promotes growth and development.

Damage from lack of sleep can happen in an instant (like falling asleep at the wheel), or it can gradually cause harm over time. Ongoing sleep deficiency affects your concentration, reaction time, learning and working capabilities. It can also contribute to chronic mental and physical health problems.

Millions of Canadians are affected by chronic sleep disorders and occasional sleeping problems that seriously diminish their health, alertness and safety. Depression, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and many other chronic illnesses have been linked to untreated sleep disorders. Sleeping disorders can mean not enough sleep, too much sleep or poor quality sleep.

The Institute of Medicine recently estimated in its report, Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, that “hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on direct medical costs related to sleep disorders such as doctor visits, hospital services, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications.” Problems with getting the right kind of sleep can affect everything in your life from productivity in your work or personal life to behavioural and relationship problems. It can also have serious consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sleepy drivers claim more than 1,500 lives each year and cause at least 100,000 motor vehicle crashes.

Impact on health - if you’re not sleeping, you’re not healthy.

One of the missing pieces in the health conversation today is the importance of sleep. Sleep helps your brain work properly. When you are sleeping, your brain continues to work. It prepares and plans for the next day and creates avenues that help you learn and retain information.

Sleep studies have proven that a good night's sleep improves your learning capacity. Studies also show that a lack of sleep alters the way parts of the brain function resulting in indecisiveness, emotional and behavioural problems. Sleep deficiency has also been linked to depression and suicide.

Physical benefits of proper sleep involve healing and repairing your body. You not only rest your bones, but over-stressed heart and blood vessels have a chance to rejuvenate and become stronger, reducing your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and many other illnesses.

Lack of sleep not only affects your physical health, it has a big impact on your mental health as well. If you are not getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep, your whole outlook on life change. You may feel less motivated, tired all the time and emotionally drained.

For years doctors and researchers have seen the link between how people are sleeping and how they are feeling. For example, insomniacs are more likely to become depressed than people who sleep well. They are 10-17 times more prone to clinical anxiety and depression.

Learn How to Get a Good Nights Sleep

We have discovered two great methods to help you get the proper, restful sleep you need to stay healthy.

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

These glasses block artificial blue light. Devices such as cellphones emit this blue light that affects the level of melatonin your body produces; a chemical that helps us sleep at night. Essentially, blue light tricks your body into thinking it is daytime.

This Book Will Put You to Sleep – In a Good Way

Sleep Smarter (by Shawn Stevenson) is a fun and entertaining book about how sleep impacts your mind, body and performance, without skimping on the “how to's” to get the sleep you really deserve. The book has already been enjoyed by millions of people, including our founder, Lorne Marr. In fact, sleep is one of the key pillars of Mr. Marr's personal philosophy on health.

“It doesn’t matter what you eat if you don’t get your sleep! Shawn Stevenson has thrown a spotlight on the disease of insomnia and lack of sleep that is killing so many of us. This book is the perfect introduction to the tools and strategies that could fix your broken sleep.”

―Alexandra Jamieson, bestselling author and costar of the hit movie Super Size Me

“We’ve all read books on the importance of eating healthy and exercise, but sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle that many people overlook. Sleep Smarter has everything the average person needs to become a ‘professional sleeper’ to further enhance their quality of life.”

―Drew Manning, New York Times bestselling author of Fit2Fat2Fit

What The Financial Experts Own – Chad Larmond

October 20th, 2017

Chad created Larmond Risk Management in 2011 to help business owners, professionals & executives in securing the future of their families and businesses. Chad prides himself on treating his clients with the utmost professionalism. His consultative approach to insurance planning allows his clients to feel confident in their coverage as they preserve and grow their wealth. His patience and keen attention to detail ensure that his client’s best interests are consistently a top priority.  

Chad is committed to building long-term relationships with all of his clients. His goal is to be your financial planning partner for life.

Chad has been involved with several charitable organizations, most prominently with Cystic Fibrosis as Co-Chair for their annual Durham Region golf tournament.

Chad is a proud husband & father. He resides in the GTA with his beautiful wife, Dana, and their three awesome children. He values the time he spends with his family, friends, and clients. His passions include hockey, golf and downhill skiing.


What Type of Life Insurance do you own?

I own Term Life Insurance as a means to replace my income for my wife and 3 children.  I also own Permanent Cash Value Life Insurance so as to provide additional tax-exempt investments as part of my overall portfolio.  I also believe that owning Permanent Life Insurance is your license to spend your money during retirement.  No matter how much money we accumulate, there is always the worry of outliving our assets.  


What factors did you consider when determining the coverage amount?

I considered my full financial situation including current & future earnings, debt and savings.  I also considered what a reasonable (more guaranteed) investment rate of return would be when investing life insurance proceeds so as to produce an annual income for my family.

Do you believe in Life Insurance for Children? 

Yes, if the parents are properly insured first or if grandparents are buying a policy as a gift.  Personally, I also have my 3 children covered with a lump sum Critical Illness Insurance policy that returns 75% of my premiums when they reach age 25 (assuming no claims).  After age 25, the coverage continues for life whereby 100% of premiums will be returned anytime after their age 40 (upon surrender of the policy and assuming no claims at that time).

What is The Biggest Life Insurance mistake people make?

The biggest mistake would be not insuring your full human value.  We would never buy insurance for our home that would only replace half of the house, but many people are severely underinsured in comparison to their future potential earnings.

Outside of Life Insurance what other types of individual insurance are often overlooked?

The most overlooked category of insurance is what the industry refers to as Living Benefits (LB).  So many people rely too heavily upon their group plans.  These group/association plans leave them unnecessarily exposed due to standard gaps and caveats that exist.  One of the most important purchases you can make as a professional is a properly designed income protection plan (disability insurance) complemented with lump sum critical illness insurance.

<- Back to What The Experts Own


Why Genetic Testing Has Insurance Companies Up In Arms

October 19th, 2017

Life insurance companies in Canada are once again initiating new measures to help protect consumers from discrimination based on their genetic profile. Critics, however, are not convinced the changes will ensure fair treatment.

The voluntary pledge states that people applying for a life insurance policy of up to $250,000 will no longer be asked or required to provide information about previous genetic tests. Insurance companies are still allowed to use this information when applicants seek larger amounts, but consumers won't be asked for the results of the tests if done for medical purposes and the person has not been informed of the outcome. Family members of the applicant won't be required to undergo genetic testing.

According to Frank Swedlove, president and CEO of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, “What we wanted to do is ensure the vast majority of Canadians would be able to buy life insurance and not need to worry about this issue of genetic test results.”

The issue of genetic discrimination has increasingly become a contentious topic in Canada as scientific advances and lower testing fees make it possible for anyone to know in advance if they may have a gene predisposed to certain diseases, cancer or other health conditions. Every year the number of diseases that can identified through genetic testing increases.

Proponents of the federal bill banning genetic discrimination content the new measures don't reach to the root of the problem. Canadians could still be targeted by insurance providers, employers and others.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who sponsored the bill in the House said, “Legislation is needed to protect Canadians from being unfairly targeted because of their genes. I don't think voluntary efforts, when it comes to discrimination, are ever appropriate. The reality is there is a power imbalance.”

Noah Shack, director of policy at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs stated, “They've known about the problem of genetic discrimination for years and chose to really do nothing until the 11th hour. Insurance is only part of the issue. Canadians need protection from the host of ways companies, landlords, employers and others may use genetic testing results.”

As of January, 2017 life insurance companies in Canada stopped requesting or using genetic testing information for new life insurance applications up to $250,000. The latest insurance industry policy is slated to become effective as of Jan. 1, 2018 and would only apply to life insurance, not critical illness or other products.

Wendy Hope, vice-president of external relations with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, stated in an e-mail, “Such products are directly related to health status and that not using or having access to genetic testing information would make the cost of these products prohibitive.”

Mr. Swedlove said the commitment made by the industry will meet the needs of the 85% of Canadians with life insurance coverage of $250,000 or less, therefore new rules aren't needed.

“The bill isn't really necessary to meet the needs for the vast majority of Canadians,” he said.

Mr. Swedlove went on to say that the bill could present serious harm because applicants genetically predisposed to critical health conditions could drive up the costs for everyone if they are allowed to enter the “pool” or category from which premiums are set.

Bev Heim-Myers, chair of the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, said capping life insurance without genetic testing requirements at $250,000 is discriminatory in and of itself and unfairly targets those who might want or need more coverage.

Insurance issues aside, she said legislation is necessary because without it, Canadians may forgo genetic testing that could inform them of potential health risks and allow them to take preventive action. According to MedCan, the majority of people who have had genetic tests make proactive life changes such as healthier diets and more exercise.

“This is about the health and well-being of Canadians,” Ms. Heim-Myers said. “This is about Canadians being able to make their own choices.”

Debate is About More Than Genetics

Insurance companies fear that a potentially high-risk client – someone genetically predisposed to breast cancer, for instance – could buy a large insurance policy at the same rate as someone without the cancer gene. With the ban in place, the industry might feel it's necessary to increase premiums across the board.

The side in favour of the bill, like the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, fears that being forced to disclose genetic testing and the results, will discourage people from being tested. This could lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. It could also discourage Canadians from getting life insurance due to the high premiums for being a higher-risk.

Timothy Caulfield, director of research at the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta speaks of other fears: The rash of horrific predictions regarding the evils of tampering with genetics and the fears that followed the decoding of the human genome, such as an army of clones, designer babies and the creation of a genetic underclass.

Full human genomes can now be decoded for about $5,000 and there is data on over 32,000 genetic predispositions. However, the link between genes and the development of diseases is very complex.

In Policy Options, Professor Caulfield writes, “There is little evidence to support the idea that genetic discrimination is a big problem. If it does happen, it certainly doesn’t happen on a scale that would classify it as a pressing policy dilemma,”

From an insurer’s perspective, if an individual’s genetic information is available, then you could argue that it should be shared with an insurance provider to accurately assess risk as this form of testing can be very helpful in determining the probability of a future disorder. In this sense, genetic testing results are part of your medical history.

From the consumer’s perspective, there are obvious concerns about discrimination, even though it is difficult to determine the number of cases that have occurred. However, the main benefit of genetic testing is that you will understand the risks you are exposed to and will be able to take preventive actions much sooner.

Legislation is Not Necessary

CLHIA president Frank Swedlove says legislation is not necessary. The industry is responding to concerns raised about the amount of personal information insurers can gather.

He says self-regulation pre-empts federal legislation. The industry doesn't require new genetic testing during the application process, but customers must disclose all medical information and history when buying a new policy – including genetic tests.

Swedlove says collecting genetic test results for insurance policies of $250,000 or more is necessary in order to manage the industry's financial risks.

“Our goal is to continue to ensure that all Canadians can access insurance at fair and reasonable prices,” Swedlove says.

Pros to Consumer and Cons to Insurance Companies

Bill S-201, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, seeks to revise the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act to make it illegal for employers, insurance companies and anyone else entering into a contract or providing goods or services to require anyone to undergo genetic testing or to disclose the results of a genetic test.

The bill was designed to ban discrimination based on a person's genetic makeup. For example, if tests reveal you have the Huntington’s disease gene, you could be fired or denied employment or insurance. Proponents of the bill, initiated in 2015 by Liberal Sen. James Cowan, argue that fear of such repercussions may prevent people from getting genetic testing.

The insurance industry disagrees with this legislation arguing that it could impede access to insurance for some Canadians and thereby severely compromise the viability of the industry. In theory, if a person knows he is genetically predisposed with a life threatening disease, he could buy millions of dollars worth of life insurance at essentially discounted rates, without telling the insurance company he may die early.

The concept of equal information is absolutely at the core of insurance,” says Stephen Frank, senior vice-president, policy, at the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA). “The rule is, if we’re going to offer you insurance, both of us need to understand the risk that we’re taking, so that we can enter into this in good faith. And this type of approach would break that chain.”

The industry states that if the bill passes the result would be higher premiums for everyone. “You’d have to write a lot of $300,000 policies to make up for a couple million dollars of unexpected loss,” says Frank. He points to a Canadian Institute of Actuaries study that estimated, over time, passage of the bill could result in 50% premium increases for women and 30% for men.

Others believe the impact would be less severe. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, citing 2011 and 2012 studies, concluded the legislation “would not have significant adverse impact on the viability of the life and health insurance industry,” and that premiums would likely not rise more than about 3% overall and the industry could absorb this increase.

Dr. Michael Hoy, an economics professor at the University of Guelph who specializes in insurance market information, says, “No one can predict the precise impact of such legislation. The insurance industry is justified in arguing that people possessing devastating genetic information would be prompted to buy more insurance.”

But the thing is,” he continues, “there aren’t very many people in the population who have such devastating information that they can keep [it] private from insurance companies.” Given that applicants would still have to disclose personal and family medical histories, insurance companies would know if someone had a strong family history of, for example, breast cancer or Huntington’s disease, and would rate policies accordingly.

So, if you spread those extra costs across the entire insurance pool,” continues Hoy, “they probably won’t lead to very substantial increases. I’m not saying that 30% or 50% increases couldn’t someday be a sensible set of assumptions, but I think that’s very far down the road.”

Toronto insurance consultant David Wm. Brown is less sanguine. “Genetic testing is at its embryonic stage. Eventually, we’re going to be able to test for everything,” he says. “If we get to that point, and applicants can have more knowledge than insurance companies on almost every question they ask, then it completely skews a system based on mutual disclosure of information.”

Frank says insurance companies voluntarily agree not to ask applicants or existing policyholders to undergo genetic testing. And beginning January 1, 2018, CLHIA members won't ask for the results for policies worth less than $250,000, which is about 85% of policies issued. Any amount over that, he says, “we would still want to understand why you are asking for so much coverage.”

He continues to say these measures take into account the importance of genetic privacy to Canadians. “It’s a compromise that will allow the industry and the market to be sustained at a price point that people find affordable, but that will protect industry from being taken advantage of by people who have information they are not disclosing.”

The way the bill stands now, insurance companies are not allowed to ask applicants for genetic testing results. Should legislation pass as it currently written, says Brown, advisors would be put into murky water pertaining to disclosure and ethics. The insurance application, he points out, directly asks agents if they know of any factors that might affect underwriting.

If I know that somebody has had genetic testing, then I personally believe I am obligated to inform the [insurance] company that I do know that information. We have a certain fiduciary responsibility to both the provider and the purchaser, and I think anyone who wants to do the right thing has to disclose what they know. How [the legislation will] deal with that, I don’t know,” he says.

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault has put forward several motions to amend Bill S-201, effectively removing the insurance industry from its scope. The amendments and the bill are up for vote in the House of Commons in early April.

In the meantime, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act points to a more systemic problem for the insurance industry – public perception that insurance companies are predators.

It’s a bit of a mis-perception from the advocates, that we use genetic tests as a way to say no,” says Frank. “Insurers want to write business. We’re in the business of covering people. So we’re never going to be looking for reasons to say no.”

Brown agrees. “People still don’t understand the concept of insurance as a spread of risk among a common ground of people,” he says. “All they see is, ‘The bad insurance companies want to get more information in order not to pay claims.’” He argues that Bill S-201 could pass solely on this emotional argument, which, ironically, could have negative repercussions for the industry and consumers alike. “We need to do a better job of explaining insurance to the public.”

We’ve Got The Answers: How Can I Motivate My Clients to Take Action?

October 18th, 2017

Today's Life Insurance Question: how can I motivate my clients to take action?

This question came to me while I was thinking about The Raptors season starting tomorrow (and it just so happens I am prepared with my Raptors shirt today!). I thought about a challenge that Coach Casey faces- how does he motivate his players?

As advisors, we face the same challenge and that is getting our clients to take action, especially with something such as life insurance, which is an intangible product. A big part of dealing with this challenge, in this case, is showing your clients the need- why they need the product and what the product can do for them. 

Life Insurance is a very valuable product that can change peoples lives and it's our job as advisors to show people the value and what it can do for them and their family. This is how you motivate people to take action!

Have more life insurance questions? We have more answers for you here!



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