I’ve certainly been called worse things…

Hello Flatlanders,

Last week’s issue, If you are disabled in a vehicle accident, about the challenges people have navigating SGI and MPI to access certain services, struck a chord with some readers.

Jack wrote in to say a family member had several bureaucratic challenges with MPI in getting his class 1 licence back after needing a prosthetic leg.

Another reader Steve, who was diagnosed with epilepsy later in life, experienced delays getting his licence back, even after his medical condition was well-managed with medication, as MPI went back and forth with his doctor.

And Debra wrote: “I’m a paraplegic with MS. I live on CPP-Disability and supplemented my Saskatchewan Assured Income for the Disabled. The article about the people not being able to choose their hours of work, not being allowed to save, really struck a chord with me and I would love to see much more about Accessibility and equality for the disabled community.”

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Jack brought up the possibility of Manitoba returning to private insurance, which I jotted down as an idea for a future issue of The Flatlander—to explore what the differences would be between private and public insurance and why Saskatchewan and Manitoba have Crown corporations operating vehicle insurance.

I’ll say from my experience, having lived in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as Alberta, Yukon, and Maryland, which had private vehicle insurance, that it’s significantly cheaper to licence and insure a vehicle under public insurance, and that private insurance companies have their own system of bureaucracy to deal with. For instance, having me, the consumer, having to go out and get three independent quotes before getting my car fixed, or going to the private insurer’s preferred autobody shop in my area, which I didn’t find so competent. And after getting into an accident in the U.S once, I found MPI was much easier to deal with than the American insurance company. But, again, these are just my personal experiences.

If others out there have their own experiences in regards to private or public insurance, hit reply to this email and I’ll include them in a future issue of The Flatlander that explores the difference between private and public insurance.

A Q&A with MPI and SGI about their assessment processes

This week, as a part two from last week’s newsletter, I wanted to share a Q&A email exchange I did with SGI and MPI about their assessment processes.

Me: How were the assessment processes around employment and equipment purchases determined when it comes to assessing a disabled person’s needs, and why do they exist? ie) If someone is switching from full-time hours down to part-time hours at some point after being disabled, they would have to be assessed by MPI/SGI; or if they are buying a particular appliance or device to aid with their day-to-day living because of their disability they would have to get this purchase approved by MPI/SGI.

Heather Hubic, SGI: Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) was the first introduction to No Fault (insurance) in the early 90s. MPI modeled SAAQ to introduce their No Fault program, and then SGI modeled MPI very closely. The care model was well established when SGI introduced No Fault.

(Editor’s note: In Saskatchewan you have a choice between no fault coverage or tort coverage.
Tort insurance provides fewer benefits for a person injured in a traffic crash, but the tort policy provides more avenues for the person to sue for damages.
More than 99 per cent of Saskatchewan residents have no-fault insurance, so they can’t sue for pain and suffering damages if they are in an accident. It’s believed most people opt for no fault insurance because it provides more benefits with less risk).

Brian Smiley, MPI: If an individual is not able to work due to the accident there are various types of assessments and rehabilitation programs that may be used to assist them in a return to work or maximizing their function. The specifics of an assessment is done and what type of assessment is dependent on the specifics of each individual’s situation.

If assistive equipment is required this would be recommended by a doctor, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, or other treating health care professional.

Any equipment purchased will require pre-approval from MPI and may require several quotes prior to approval depending on the type of equipment.

This approval is required as MPI co-ordinates with various providers and reviews the request to ensure it is related to the accident injuries and is not in conflict with other items that may have already been approved.

Me:How often are these policies reviewed and changed?

Brian Smiley, MPI: Policies and practices are reviewed regularly. The specifics of an assessment or approval will be dependent on the specifics needs and circumstances of each individual claimant.

Heather Hubic, SGI: Policies are reviewed and changed on an ongoing basis, along with formal reviews of the program.

Informally, the SGI medical consultants will inform the Director of Rehabilitation Services when there is something they feel is missing in the regulations, or something that requires updating in relation to permanent impairment awards. There is also a section in the Automobile Accident Insurance Act Section 154 that allows the consultant to award the permanent impairment for something if it is not in the regulations, but similar to another impairment. For example, a labral hip tear is not in the regulations but is similar to a shoulder tear so they would look to the shoulder benefits to award for the hip. These are documented and can inform future revisions.

Me: When these policies are reviewed, is there any public consultation with the people with disabilities who utilize SGI/MPI services?

Heather Hubic, SGI: Yes. When a formal review was completed in 2015, SGI reached out through a survey to approximately 11,000 SGI No Fault customers over five years prior to gather information. Additionally, there were customers and stakeholders as part of the review panel in making changes to legislation in 2017. Also, SGI is continuously sending and receiving customer surveys and will act upon items identified that may warrant a change in policy.

Brian Smiley: MPI regularly surveys our customers for feedback on their claims experience. Additionally, MPI reviews informal customer feedback that has been provided to their case manager and review for potential process improvements.

Me: Is it possible that perhaps someday the system could be more efficient so there aren’t as many bureaucratic hoops people need to jump through to get what they need?

Tyler McMurchy, SGI: SGI is always looking for ways to improve our processes and turnaround times.

Each claim is adjudicated on its own merits. We do our best to provide a decision promptly, however at times more investigation, review and due diligence is required. The Automobile Accident Insurance Act dictates what criteria must be met when making funding decisions. For instance, when making a decision related to funding of specialized mobility devices or rehabilitative benefits, we must determine if the program or treatment is necessary or advisable to contribute to rehabilitation, to lessen disability and to facilitate recovery. Also, is the specialized mobility device safe for the customer?  Does it have supporting literature to deem it safe and reliable? We also obtain the opinion of a medical consultant with the requisite expertise to review literature and evidence related to the rehabilitative treatment, aid, etc. Such processes are important to ensure we are treating our customers fairly and consistently.

Brian Smiley, MPI: MPI’s Personal Injury Protection Plan is all encompassing and provides excellent benefits to Manitoba residents. Our system is designed to best serve those who require the benefits they are entitled to receive. On that note, MPI continually looks at ways to streamline our processes and improve the customer experience. This is balanced to ensure we practice fiscal responsibility to all Manitobans.

Me: When it comes to installing hand pedals or other assisted driving devices in a vehicle, what is the process a person must go through to be able to add these to a vehicle, be able to drive with them, and get insurance for these devices?

Brian Smiley, MPI: The individual needs to participate in a Driver Assessment and Management Program assessment to determine if they have the functional and cognitive ability to be able to operate a vehicle and what type of modifications may be required.  Once this assessment is completed the report is sent to MPI and we are able to then work with the customer and the Community Occupational Therapist to determine what type of vehicle would best suit their needs and which could be modified. The recommendations for modifications are reviewed and if approved then we proceed to have the vehicle modified.  The customer is able to insure the vehicle by using the same process as any other Manitoban.

Heather Hubic SGI: If a customer is involved in a motor vehicle accident and has sustained injuries that now require them to drive with hand controls, etc. their individual Personal Injury Representative would work with the customer and their care providers, such as an Occupational Therapist or Physiatrist, to ensure appropriate devices are recommended in relation to the customer’s injuries. The customer may, or may not be referred for a Driver Assessment or Driver Test, depending on the situation. If related to an injury claim, each customer is looked at individually on a case-by-case basis.

Correction from last week:

I wanted to apologize for the fact that Tyler McMurchy’s name was spelled wrong last week. It was spelled McMurphy. I take full responsibility for that, as I should have caught it.  Tyler says: “I’ve certainly been called worse things than ‘McMurphy’ haha.”

If you’re on Twitter, you should check out McMurchy’s recent ride along with Moose Jaw police.

Reader comments
To wrap up, I just wanted to share some reader feedback from some recent issues of The Flatlander.
 On carbon tax 
A few people weighed in on Does taxing us more change our bad habits, about the carbon tax.
Percy wrote: “In a large cold country, like Canada is, the carbon tax is simply a GST replacement for the government to increase revenue! 
“Much of fossil fuel consumption is inelastic – driving to work or heating your home or drying grain – there is no affordable alternative in the horizon – the carbon tax simply makes people poorer; the government knows it because it does not affect the lifestyle or the income of the law makers because they earn many times the Canadian average!” 
Dennis asked: “So, you have to ask the question- why does that one farmer pay $40,000 in carbon tax when it doesn’t apply to farmers?  Is he doing custom work, does he dry all his grain?  You have to say everything that applies.”
Anne wrote: “My husband and I farm and yes, we pay some carbon tax. The key point you make is that the tax DOES NOT apply to dyed diesel and gas which is what runs all our equipment. That $40,000 bill you mention needs to be put into context because it’s likely on a very large farm with gross earnings of several million. I’m sorry but farming today is big business and it’s embarrassing that every time we’re asked to be part of a solution, we pull the poor farmer card.”

Anne and Dennis are right. I’m going to have to re-visit the carbon tax issue and drill down on why the president of the Western Canada Wheat Growers Association pays $40,000 in carbon tax as part of his farming operation, and if he thinks it is representative of what most Canadian farmers pay.

I’ve got the 2020 farm income Stats Canada data queued up to look through. According to the National Observer, the data shows that about half of Canada’s farms have a net operating income close to zero; and roughly a third are in the red. Meanwhile, the top 20 per cent — about 38,000 farms — have net operating incomes well above average, between $800,000 and $1 million.

The National Farmer’s Union also has published a report on the farm income crisis that I will have to go through.  

In the meantime, keep the comments coming, as your feedback helps me dig deeper into the issues. In some ways journalism is the art of excavation and your feedback helps.
 On treaty rights
Lastly, Bernadette wrote in regarding the issue We all know how this story ends, which was about Treaty rights.  

“A few years ago, when I said, ‘We are all Treaty people,’ my husband’s Indigenous friend who is of Gitsan ancestry replied, ‘No, we’re not. My ancestors did not sign a Treaty.’ I didn’t question her on it and I haven’t seen her for two years. But I thought I’d mention it having read your piece.”

Bernadette’s note reminded me of an article in The Conversation, that takes issue with the phrase “We are all Treaty people” because it implies that the benefits of the treaties were equally shared between Indigenous Peoples and settlers, which was not the case.

Bernadette also sent me this week’s photo of the week. If you have a photo to share, please hit reply to this email and send it along. 

Photo of the week

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Bernadette’s backyard in Regina.

Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  • The New York Times wrote a long piece about the Indian family that froze to death at the Emerson border earlier this year.
  • The Jennifer Jones Olympic curling team is splitting up at end of this season.
  • The Bombers tell the Manitoba Liberals to stop selling items with the ‘W’ logo.
  • Some Manitoba farmers are stocking up on fuel as prices spike and war in Ukraine continues.
  • Manitoba Hydro says customers are struggling to keep up with their energy bills.

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. A CP train derailed near Drinkwater.
  2. Premier Scott Moe is asking for privacy after a vehicle registered to him was impounded in B.C.
  3. The head of a Regina real estate development company says the Saskatchewan government is not doing enough to support affordable housing in the province, specifically for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
  4. New cars are hard to find as Saskatchewan dealerships struggle to get inventory.
  5. Saskatchewan is seeing a decline in active family doctors.

Until next week…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

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