Highlights of the legislative and industry updates in 2012

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Federal and provincial legislation and budgets as well as changes to provincial health plans can have a considerable impact on group benefits plans. We communicate these changes to you via Focus Updates during the year.

The tables below provide a useful province by province recap of the changes we have seen in 2012.

 

ALBERTA

Generic Prescription Drug Program

As mentioned in last year’s highlights review, in 2010 some provinces took action to reduce the price of generic drugs. Alberta implemented a phased-in approach for some features of their generic drug reform. 

Effective July 1, 2012, Alberta Health announced that it has reduced the amount it will pay for generic prescription drugs from 45 per cent of the cost of name brand-drugs to 35 per cent. 

For more information, refer to Focus Update #355

 

Insurance Act amendments – effective July 1, 2012

Amendments to the Insurance Act in Alberta (and also in British Columbia) came into force on July 1, 2012.  As a result, we have added two new provisions to group contracts and employee benefits booklets to reflect these changes:

  1. Limitation periods for legal actions: One legislative change requires insurers to include a limitation period provision in the contract and employee benefits booklet. A limitation period provision describes the time period in which a plan member may commence a proceeding for the recovery of benefits under the plan.
  2. Rights to copies of documents:  The employee benefits booklets for insured plan members living in British Columbia and Alberta must include a clause describing their right to receive from Sun Life copies of documents that relate to their contract and their coverage.

Please note: While the changes in legislation apply only to insured plans in Alberta (and in British Columbia), we took the opportunity to amend the wording for all of our insured plans for all provinces as well as plans with both insured and self-insured (ASO) benefits to provide greater clarity and consistency.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #336

 

Alberta announces a new regulation under the Health Professions Act establishing the College of Naturopathic Doctors

As of August 1, 2012, Alberta now regulates the naturopathic profession through the College of Naturopathic Doctors, the new governing body for the profession. Alberta joins British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario in broadening access to alternative care in wellness and illness prevention.

This came as good news to plan sponsors and plan members who have coverage for licensed naturopaths under our Extended Health Care (EHC) benefit. Naturopathic doctors who are registered with the College must have achieved the skill and level of competency of the regulated profession in order to practice in Alberta. That translates into better public safety and more options for plan members seeking alternatives in health care practitioners.

Please note that this change in regulation had little impact on a plan member’s experience or on our EHC plans which cover naturopathic services in Alberta.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #358

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Insurance Act amendments – effective July 1, 2012

Amendments to the Insurance Act in British Columbia (and in Alberta as mentioned above) came into force on July 1, 2012.  As a result, we have added two new provisions to group contracts and employee benefits booklets to reflect these changes:

  1. Limitation periods for legal actions: one legislative change requires insurers to include a limitation period provision in the contract and employee benefits booklet. A limitation period provision describes the time period in which a plan member may commence a proceeding for the recovery of benefits under the plan.
  2. Rights to copies of documents:  The employee benefits booklets for insured plan members living in British Columbia and Alberta must include a clause describing their right to receive from Sun Life copies of documents that relate to their contract and their coverage.

Please note: while the changes in legislation apply only to insured plans in British Columbia (and in Alberta as mentioned above), we took the opportunity to amend the wording for all of our insured plans for all provinces as well as plans with both insured and self-insured (ASO) benefits to provide greater clarity and consistency.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #336

 

Reinstating provincial sales tax (PST) 

When British Columbia introduced its budget in February 2012, the province confirmed its plans to reintroduce the PST at a rate of 7% plus federal goods and services tax (GST) by April 1, 2013. This proposed change will impact group benefits goods and services where the harmonized sales tax (HST) currently applies. We are reviewing the impacts of this change and expect to provide this information closer to the effective date.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #339   

 

MANITOBA

Insurance premiums subject to provincial sales tax

Since July 15, 2012, Manitoba provincial sales tax of 7% applies on select insurance contract premiums.   The Manitoba Retail Sales Tax (RST) applies on group insurance premiums for the following coverage:

  • Life
  • Disability (short-term and long-term)
  • Critical illness
  • Accidental death & dismemberment
  • All creditor insurance

Extended health care and dental benefit coverage are exempt from the Manitoba RST as well as administrative services only (ASO) arrangements.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #362    

 

Manitoba Insurance Act changes

In May 2012, the Manitoba government introduced Bill 27 which makes significant amendments to the Insurance Act and modernizes the wording of approximately one-third of the Act's provisions. Some of the significant amendments are:

  • Inclusion of new requirements for disclosure for ASO/LTD products
  • Consequential amendment to The Insurance Corporations Tax Act relating to the name of the class of accident and sickness insurance.

The Bill received Royal Assent on June 14, 2012.  Proclamation is expected in 2013 and we will communicate as soon as more information is available.

For more information, refer to http://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-1/b027e.php

 

 

NOVA SCOTIA 

Harmonized sales tax

As part of the province’s budget presented in April of 2012, Nova Scotia announced its plans to reduce the current HST rate of 15% by 1% in 2014 and another 1% in 2015. These proposed changes will impact group benefits goods and services where the HST applies. We will communicate closer to the proposed effective date of each change.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #332 

 

Fair drug pricing program

In their budget, the government mentioned their “fair drug pricing” program which started effective April 1, 2011. With this program, the province states that it is aiming to protect families and seniors from unfair drug prices. On July 1, 2012, prices payable under the program, went down to 35% of brand-name drugs, which is where the government is planning to keep them.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #339

 

ONTARIO

Ontario Insurance Act changes

As part of the Ontario budget presented in March 2012, the province confirmed their intention to review and update Ontario’s Insurance Act. The government is proposing the following:

  • Amendments to the life insurance and accident and sickness insurance parts of the Insurance Act to enhance consumer protection, reduce regulatory burden, and harmonize with other Canadian jurisdictions; and
  • enhancement of its insurance regulation by proposing amendments to give the Superintendent of Financial Services the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties in the insurance sector.

The bill received Royal assent on June 20, 2012. We will give you the latest developments as soon as we have further details.

 For more information, refer to Focus Update #339           

 

 

AODA - Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Ontario introduced accessibility legislation and it is likely that other provinces will follow suit.  Generally, the purpose of accessibility legislation is to achieve accessibility for individuals with disabilities by removing barriers such as attitudinal barriers, information and communications barriers, and technology barriers, and by improving certain policies and practices, so that an individual with a disability can fully participate in all aspects of society.

The Customer Service Standard, which is one of two regulations under AODA, became effective January 1, 2012.  Sun Life Financial Canada has implemented all current accessibility requirements, and is well equipped to work with any plan members who may require accessibility support.


Expanded roles for Ontario pharmacists

Ontario pharmacists now have an expanded role in health services, allowing them to refill drug prescriptions and give flu shots, among other services.

Following an October 9, 2012 announcement by the Government of Ontario, pharmacists can now:

  • Renew or adapt existing prescriptions
  • Give flu shots
  • Prescribe medication to help people quit smoking
  • Demonstrate how to use an asthma inhaler or inject insulin
  • Support patients who have a chronic disease, such as diabetes, monitor their condition

Benefits to employers

This could mean fewer doctor appointments to renew a prescription, possibly resulting in less time off work for employees.  Any increase in flu shots being administered will not negatively affect employers financially, as these costs are covered by the government health plan. We could also see fewer employees off sick during flu season.

For more information, refer to http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2012/10/pharmacists-can-now-give-flu-shots-renew-prescriptions.html

 

 

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Negotiations on harmonized sales tax

As part of the provincial Budget presented in April 2012, P.E.I. confirmed formal negotiations were underway with the federal government to implement a harmonized sales tax (HST), effective April 2013. It is anticipated these proposed changes will impact group benefits goods and services where HST applies. We will communicate the impact of this proposed change before the effective date.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #339

 

 

QUEBEC

Quebec premium tax change and Quebec Sales Tax harmonizing with GST

The Quebec and federal government announced the harmonization of the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) with the GST, effective January 1, 2013.  Bill 5, An Act to amend the Act respecting the Quebec sales tax and other legislative provisions, received Royal assent on December 7, 2012, making this law.  In addition, the Quebec budget released on November 20, 2012 included proposed changes which impact the premium tax rate used.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #371

 

 

SASKATCHEWAN

Expanding the diabetes program

As part of the province’s budget presented in March of 2012, the Saskatchewan government announced the expansion of its diabetes program which includes covering insulin pumps for residents up to the age of 25. The cut-off for the program was previously age 18. Residents will first need to meet the provincial diabetes program criteria in order to qualify for coverage of an insulin pump. For residents with insulin pump coverage under their Sun Life Financial group plan, claims for these expenses not covered first by the provincial plan can be submitted for reimbursement.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #339

 

FEDERAL

Employer contributions to a group sickness or accident insurance plan 

As announced in  the Federal budget released in March 2012, employer contributions to a group sickness or accident insurance plan, such as accidental death and dismemberment or critical illness insurance,  are a taxable benefit to employees effective January 1, 2013. However, employer contributions paid towards wage loss replacement plans, such as short-term and long-term disability plans are not impacted by this legislation.

For more information, refer to Focus Update #363 or #374

 

Bill C-28, Canada's Anti-Spam Act, passed in December 2010

The Act will establish a regulatory framework to protect electronic commerce in Canada, with an aim to regulate all forms of commercial electronic communication. Among other things, this bill prohibits businesses from sending electronic messages to customers without their consent, and will require them to have an easy unsubscribe mechanism.

The CRTC finalized its regulations in March 2012 and has set up a Spam Reporting Centre to intake consumer complaints. Industry Canada regulations have been published in January, 2013 for a 30-day consultation period.  It is expected that the bill will come into force later in the year.   Sun Life will continue to monitor the progress of the regulations, in order to implement and communicate any required changes.

 

Bill C-12 – Amendments to PIPEDA 

2012 saw no movement of this bill in the House of Commons.  It is hoped the government will put this initiative back on the agenda with a commitment to having the laws operational in 2013.

Bill C-12, Safeguarding Canadians' Personal Information Act, is a reintroduction of Bill C-29, and was tabled in September, 2011. If passed, it will amend the Protection of Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (" PIPEDA").  C-12 intends to protect and empower customers, clarify and streamline rules for organizations, improve investigation and enforcement of PIPEDA, and improve the language of the legislation.  Proposed key amendments to PIPEDA include:

  • a definition of 'valid consent' for the purpose of collecting, using or disclosing information
  • prescribed situations where personal information can be collected, used or disclosed without the individual's knowledge or consent
  • a requirement to report material breaches to the Privacy Commissioner or Canada and to notify affected individuals and organizations

Sun Life has already incorporated most of the proposed changes into our business practices, and will continue to monitor its progress.  The Bill is expected to be enacted as currently drafted. 

Bill C-38 – Protecting long-term disability plans

As part of the Federal budget released in March of 2012, the government announced its commitment to introduce legislation requiring federally regulated private sector employers to insure on a go forward basis, the long-term disability benefit coverage offered to employees.

This proposed legislation will impact our group benefit plan sponsors who are considered federally regulated private sector employees, those who currently have their long-term disability benefit plans with Sun Life on an administrative services only (ASO) basis. We are monitoring the development and implication of this proposed legislation and more details will be provided when it becomes available.

 

Questions?

Please contact your Client Service Administrator at 1-877-786-7227.