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Designing insurance solutions to reflect
physicians’ changing needs
Bruce Palmer
I ’m getting old, or so I’ve been told by a younger acquaintance. While this may be true — I turned 55 last summer — it is also true that “getting old” is not what it used to be. In many ways, it’s better. In other ways, aging today means confronting challenges not faced by previous generations.

​​When I compare myself to my parents at my age, our lifestyles and health status couldn’t be more different. By the time my father turned 55, he was a widower and seemed much older than his years. He was physically inactive, and suffering from high blood pressure and a bad back (the result of a Second World War injury). Although I knew he had played sports in his youth (rugby and cricket), I had not seen him do even one lap in our pool in years. By age 55, my father had never had an MRI and never consulted a physiotherapist about his back. 

I do not know what the future holds for me, but for now, my experience of aging has been a far cry from that of my father. In recent years, I have been bike riding and mountain climbing, played beach volleyball, and helped lift furniture for my daughter’s move. 

I have experienced MRIs and physiotherapy for various injuries, and my three trips to the operating room in the past 20 years have dealt with everything from damaged nerves to testing and treating disease.


Better Than Ever​

​The evolution in health care and nutrition is among the reasons why we are living longer and aging better than previous generations. We still get sick and injured, but we are more advanced at diagnosing and treating these events. 

As a sometime patient, an all-the-time taxpayer, and an aging member of society, the changes in our health care system have definitely improved my quality of life, and will hopefully continue to do so for decades to come. 

One consequence of this very positive outcome is that people incur greater health care costs over their lifetime, particularly in later stages of their lives, than people did back when my dad was 55. For those of us in the world of insurance, this presents both challenges and opportunities. 

When the OMA’s life insurance and disability plans started in 1956, the Canadian life expectancy at birth was about 68 years for males and 74 years for females,1 and the average 65-yearold would not live to age 80.2 This meant our plans — which last until age 70 or 75 — took care of the “average” situation. 

Today, however, a newborn has a life expectancy in the 80-year range, and a 65-year-old can expect to live another 20 years or so.3 Since plans that end at age 70 today are not as adequate as they once were, OMA Insurance is actively looking to update them to reflect current trends, and the realities for our members. 

For life insurance, this means having policies that terminate at older ages, with more robust conversion options into permanent and longer-lasting coverages. 

For disability insurance, it means trying to create coverage that lasts for as long as a physician wants to keep working and paying premiums.

Both of these changes potentially affect rates, so they are not overnight fixes, but they are changes that we need to make in order to echo the evolution of both health care and physician lifestyles. We anticipate some of these​ changes to be available to the OMA group insurance policies in 2015.​

Living longer also means there are a variety of health care costs that our parents did not have to worry about. 

We increasingly spend many of our post-retirement years at home, in overall reasonable health, but with a few diminished capabilities, such as poor eyesight, decreased mobility, etc. But today’s fiscal reality means that the costs associated with some of these ailments are often paid as out-of-pocket expenses, resulting in higher personal-living costs at a time when we may be earning less (or no) income. 

OMA Insurance is looking at coverages for these post-retirement years where the risk of lost income due to accident or illness is replaced with the risk of increased costs due to those same factors. We have not finalized the coverages yet, but we are working toward introducing this coverage to disability insurance policyholders before the end of 2015.


Designing New Insurance Solutions​

​Designing new coverage that is affordable and meets the needs of today’s physicians is hard work. Insurance companies like to accept known risk and avoid unknown risk. New coverages for new markets present some major rethinking and cautious consideration. 

Fortunately, OMA Insurance has a proven track record, long-standing relationships with insurers, and a sizable client base — 58 years of uninterrupted coverage with tens of thousands of policies. This means our insurance partners listen to us and work with us. It means they care about what we tell them our members need. 

The process for creating new solutions for physicians must make financial sense. We will not be doing doctors any favours if we create a product they cannot or will not buy, or that the insurer cannot afford to continue offering. Practically, this means offering benefits a little more cautiously than we would like, while pricing them at lower than the insurer would like — a bit of mutual compromise. If all goes as planned, we will demonstrate over the next few years how well these new offerings work, and we will be able to improve them.


Planning Ahead​

​OK, I have to admit: I really don’t think that I’m old. And I don’t really feel that old. Nonetheless, I am not blind to the changes that are happening in my life, and prudence suggests I should plan for their inevitable consequences. 

The same is true about OMA Insurance and the plans we offer. While they are still quality policies that look after the interests of physicians, we can see what is happening, and we know that OMA members deserve even better. 

Physicians are working and living longer and different lives today than in the past, and OMA Insurance must plan for that, too. We are working to keep your future well insured, and will keep you updated on how the OMA’s insurance offerings are evolving to reflect physicians’ changing needs.​

For insurance solutions designed to meet doctors’ needs, call 1.800.758.1641 or email us​.

1. Statistics Canada. Life expectancy at birth, by sex, by province. [Internet]. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada; Last modified: 2012 May 31. Available at: Accessed: 2015 Feb 3. 

2. Statistics Canada. Remaining life expectancy of women and men at age 65, Canada, 1921 to 2007. [Internet]. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada; Last modified: 2013 May 13. Available at: Accessed: 2015 Feb 3. 

3. Statistics Canada. Life expectancy, at birth and at age 65, by sex and by province and territory. [Internet]. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada; Last modified: 2012 May 31. Available at: Accessed: 2015 Feb 3.