Get answers from our community members. Moderated by disability lawyer David Brannen.
Disability insurance is a type of life insurance that pays benefits when a person becomes disabled as defined by the policy. A company licensed to sell life insurance for disability benefits is considered a disability insurance company. Disability insurance companies play a central role in the administration and payment of disability insurance benefits in Canada. These insurers provide disability benefits directly through both group and individual insurance policies. The insurers also act as agents or as a third-party administrator for disability benefits plans set up by governments, large employers or non-profit organizations.
Each disability Insurance policy or plan is unique
In Canada, insurance falls under the authority of the Provinces. Therefore, insurance companies are regulated at the provincial level even though they are national, and in many cases, international corporations. Each province has an Insurance Act and associated regulations that dictate the rules an insurance company must follow to offer insurance policies in the Province. While the rules from province to province are very similar, there can be important differences.
When considering the rights and obligations of your insurance company, you must consider them in the context of your province. You can't always rely on court cases from other provinces or the experiences of others who live in other provinces because the rules in that province may be different.
Disability insurance companies are regulated by each province
It is important to appreciate that there is no "standard" disability insurance policy or plan. Each insurance company issues thousands of variations of its base policy. It is rare for two disability insurance policies to be the same, even if they are issued by the same insurance company.
Buying an insurance policy is very much like buying a car. You get to choose various models of the car. You can then pay more to get upgrades and bells and whistles. Therefore, the disability policy you end up with depends on the choices made when buying it. If you are covered under a group insurance policy, then your employer would have made these choices when buying the plan. If you bought an individual policy, then your insurance broker would have presented the various options to you, or recommend a pre-built policy that was suited to your needs. This is important to understand because it means you can’t easily compare your situation to others, even if you both have an insurance policy issued by the same insurance company.
List of Disability Insurance Companies and Plan Administrators in Canada
The following are companies in Canada involved in the administration and payment of short- and long-term disability benefits:
Assumption Life Financial Services
Blue Cross Life Insurance Company
BMO Life Assurance Company
Canadian Tire Life Insurance
Cigna / Life Insurance Company of North America
Co-operators Life Insurance Company
Desjardins Financial Security Assurance Company
Empire Life Insurance Company
Fenchurch General Insurance Company
Great-West Life Assurance Company
IA Excellence Life Insurance Company
Industrial Alliance Life Insurance
Industrial Alliance Pacific Life
La Capitale Life Insurance
London Life Insurance Company
Manulife / Manufacturers Life Insurance Company
Medavie Blue Cross
Primerica Life Insurance Company
RBC Life Insurance Company
Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada
Standard Life Insurance Company
SSQ Life Insurance Company
UL Mutual Company
Wawanesa Life Insurance Company
Self-Funded Disability Insurance Plans
Self-funded plans are administered by disability insurance companies or claim management companies, so they have the look and feel of a group disability insurance policy. However, these plans are not group insurance policies. The insurance company or claim management company is acting as a third-party administrator of benefits, but the employer or non-profit organization maintains liability for funding and authorizing payments under the plan. Self-funded and non-profit disability plans differ from group insurance policies in that they often have greater restrictions and limitations on the rights of members to appeal a denial of disability benefits. If you discover you are part of this type of disability plan, it is important to educate yourself on your rights and obligations. Below, we review some of the most common disability benefits plans that are administered by insurance companies and claims management companies.
Hospitals of Ontario Disability Income Plan New Brunswick
Province of New Brunswick LTD Plan
Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations (NSAHO) Long-term Disability Plan
Nova Scotia Public Service Long-term Disability Plan
Nova Scotia Teachers Union Long-term Disability Plan
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island Public Sector Group Insurance Plan
Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfound and Labrador Public Service Long-term Disability Plan
Hybrid Disability Insurance Plans
Hybrid disability insurance plans are somewhat of a cross between a basic group insurance policy and a self-funded disability insurance plan. These are situations where the disability plan is technically a group insurance policy, but the policyholder (government or large corporation) retains significant power and authority over the policy. We think of these plans in a separate category because they are more complex.
Federal Government / Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Disability Benefits Plan
Imperial Oil Exxon Mobile Disability Benefits Plan
Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) Long-term Disability Benefits
SISIP Long-term Disability Plan
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Resolute Legal is a national law firm focused exclusively on helping Canadian workers win disability-related payments and compensation from their employers, insurance companies, the CPP Disability Program and Workers' Compensation Programs.