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September 14, 2023

The Ontario Realtor Wellness Plan (ORWP): A Critical Evaluation

As the principal of a health benefits brokerage and president of a benefits solution provider, I have been approached by numerous realtors seeking my professional opinion on the Ontario Realtor Wellness Plan (ORWP) introduced by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). After a thorough examination of the ORWP, I believe it is crucial to shed light on some concerning aspects of this plan that have raised alarms within the real estate community.

It is an undeniable fact that many self-employed realtors face significant challenges when it comes to obtaining comprehensive health coverage, including essential services like prescription drugs, dental care, and other healthcare expenses. The nature of their profession often leaves them without access to the traditional group health plans that many employees enjoy.

The ORWP, on the surface, seems like a step in the right direction, addressing the healthcare needs of realtors. However, upon closer examination, several glaring issues come to light.

   •  Lack of a Basic Safety Net: The ORWP offers a $2,000 overall maximum ($750 for drugs, $750 for paramedical services, $500 for medical service and supplies) at 70% coverage with no dental or vision benefits for its Standard Plan. Even if you opt-in for the enhanced "Super Elite" plan, it offers a minimal dental and vision benefit at a potential increased to the  overall premium of up to $579.42 per month or $6,953.04 annually depending on your family situation. For group insurance, this falls significantly short of meeting even the most basic standards for comprehensive healthcare coverage or reasonable pricing. In an era where Canadians are increasingly reliant on prescription drugs and dental care, such limited coverage leaves realtors exposed to significant out-of-pocket expenses.

   •  Lack of Transparency: The absence of information regarding the carrier underwriting the benefits and the drug card provider raises concerns about transparency and accountability. While it's possible that these details may be disclosed in due time, the prospect of the organization forming its own Third Party Provider could introduce potential conflicts of interest and further complicate the issue. Clarity and disclosure are essential for members to make informed decisions about their healthcare options.

   •  Secondary Payer Clause: Another unusual feature of the ORWP is the provision that it will act as the second payer if any other coverage exists for a member. Not only is the plan mandatory and 100% paid for by the members, the ORWP will look for any way out of paying or, at the very least, complicating the claim.

   •  Mandatory Participation: The most concerning aspect of the ORWP is that OREA, the professional body representing 96,000 realtors in Ontario, is making it mandatory for its members to purchase this plan via their membership dues. This goes against industry standards, where individuals are typically allowed to opt out of a mandatory plan if they already have equal or better coverage through alternative means, such as an employer's plan or a spouse's plan.

To put this into perspective, it is worthwhile to compare the ORWP with other professional association plans in Canada, such as those for engineers or accountants. OREA's approach seems grossly overreaching and falls far short of providing its members with the kind of robust and flexible coverage that would truly benefit them.

While the concept of a wellness plan tailored for realtors is commendable, the current iteration of the Ontario Realtor Wellness Plan raises serious concerns. The plan's limited coverage, mandatory participation, and secondary payer clause make it a less-than-ideal solution for realtors in Ontario.

OREA should revisit its approach to this plan, considering the needs and preferences of its members. A more collaborative approach, allowing realtors to opt out if they have adequate coverage elsewhere, would be a fairer and more responsible way to address the healthcare needs of its members.

Realtors who have concerns about the ORWP are encouraged to engage with their brokerage, reach out to OREA, and contact their local provincial Member of Parliament (MP). Itis essential to voice concerns and seek alternatives that provide better healthcare solutions for Ontario's dedicated real estate professionals.

 

Author: Steven Makrinos

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