Expert Service Provider Dan Thompson of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies discusses the impact of COVID-19 and differences in how claims are handled in Canada and the US.
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How COVID-19-Related Claims Differ in Canada Versus the US
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John Czuba: Welcome to Best Insurance Law podcast. The broadcast about timely and important legal issues affecting the insurance industry. I’m John Czuba, managing editor of Best Insurance Professional Resources. We’re pleased to have with us expert service provider Dan Thompson, president and CEO of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies with offices in Ontario, Canada and Arizona. Dan has worked within the litigation arena for over 14 years. He is a registered rehabilitation professional, registered vocational professional and a certified life care planner. His company services include providing expert opinion to insurance carriers, attorneys and medical professionals by assessing the needs and vocational capabilities for people with disabilities. Dan, thank you so much for joining us again today.
Dan Thompson: John, thanks for having me.
John Czuba: Today, we’re going to be discussing COVID-19’s impact on insurance claims and differences in both the United States and Canada. And Dan for today’s first question, can you define for our audience what exactly is COVID-19?
Dan Thompson: Sure, well COVID-19, I don’t think most people know that COVID stands for the CO of corona, the VI for virus, and the D for disease. That’s how you get the word COVID and of course it was discovered in 2019 hence the 19. But as we all know, it’s highly contagious and potentially deadly to people with underlying conditions that affect their pulmonary which is really their respiratory system, their circulatory system and their immune system. Of course, at the beginning there was a lot of misconceptions and physicians did not know that it was airborne. As widely communicated it has been on the news that people were aware that it was serious that the other word for this is SARS-COVID-2, it lands in the lungs and it can do deep damage. But the virus or the body’s response to that can also injure many other organs as well. And scientists are just beginning to probe and scope the nature of that harm. So, for example, some of COVID-19 patients have strokes, seizures, they become confused and have brain inflammation. And doctors are trying to understand which of these are directly affected by the virus. It can also affect people’s liver, kidneys and hearts, so for example in Brescia, Italy a 53-year-old woman walked into the ER of her local hospital with all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. Now that included the tall tale signs of her electrocardiogram and high levels of blood markers suggesting that there was damage to the cardiac muscles. But further testing showed that the cardiac system had swelling and scarring of the left ventricle and normally that powerhouse chamber of the heart, in her case was so weak that she could only pump one third of her blood. Well of course they discovered that she had COVID-19. And what most people don’t know is that COVID attacks the endothelial cells and basically what is, that’s the small blood vessels around the heart and lungs and other vital organs. And dozens of papers have documented this. So, for example, on March 25, 2020 there was a paper in JAMA Cardiology that basically documented that heart damage is near 20% of patients out of 416 that were hospitalized for COVID-19 In Wuhan, China. In another case, basically 44% of those 36 patients were admitted to the ICU due to arrhythmia. And I actually had a colleague who worked with me when I was developing voice recognition systems and he was scheduled to go in for knee surgery and that had to be postponed because even though he was wearing a mask, he contracted the disease which penetrated his eyes and of course he had the arrhythmia and he wasn’t able to proceed with the surgery until COVID had dissipated. So, it’s some pretty serious stuff and I think a lot of people don’t always take it seriously.
John Czuba: So, Dan, how has COVID-19 impacted the vocational and LCP industries?
Dan Thompson: Sure, well as life care planners and vocational experts, some state vocational rehab agencies, you’ve got to know that they provide services to people who have disabilities who want to work. And COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for those professionals to serve them including interruptions with the service delivery, health concerns and your risk of exposure.
I mean all you have to do is turn on the news and see that all these people are wearing masks, so how can you continue to provide that service especially when the labor market itself is decimated? I mean you don’t have restaurant workers; you don’t have people out in the labor market as much as before. So, when you’ve got people with disabilities who are compromised in terms of potentially seeking employment, as I’m sure you can appreciate, you know, this really affects them. And they have large budgets to deal with these deficits and obviously this is going to affect it because coffers are being depleted and putting out to other resources. But having said that, they are trying to find creative ways of doing this. So, for example, there was an overwhelming response to online the events and online job fairs where people could actually market themselves to potential employers. And I’d like to regale a story of how this has affected my own business. So, for example just before COVID hit, I testified in a trial in Western Texas. On my way back, being the true marketer that I am, I stopped into two law firms in New Mexico and from that I was able to get at least four or five cases from these lawyers who wanted to retain me. But now that COVID has hit, you can no longer do those in person sessions. So, organizations such as the Defense Research Institute or other organizations such as the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys, they have set up virtual conferences but as I’m sure you can appreciate John, it’s not quite as effective as actually being there in person. In addition, I’ve done several what we call IMEs, those are independent medical examinations. And I had one case where the gentleman had stage four breast cancer that mastitis into his spinal cord and as such with his spinal cord that obviously caused paralysis. And even though the father took the Zoom camera around the apartment, I would have allocated more money for home renovations because it was your “typical kitchen” and yet meanwhile the lawyer sent me a video of an OT who was in the actual person’s apartment and he was able to make himself a sandwich, he was able to sit at the kitchen table, there were some limitations reaching over the hot elements but for the most part obviously, you know, that affected him. And then the other thing you have to take into consideration is the anti-spam laws. So, I pride myself on being a you know, a very good marketer. But of course, Canada and the U.S., you know the U.S. for example has opted out of the Canadian model which is an opt-in. So, in other words when I’m sending out these emails, people can actually sign off and say, don’t send me any other emails because they’re being inundated or spammed by this. So, clearly it’s had a huge impact and you know, it’s something that needs to be addressed as time goes on.
John Czuba: Dan, you touched a little bit on differences in the U.S. and Canada. Are there any other differences between how those countries are handling COVID-19?
Dan Thompson: Sure, I think there’s been a huge difference. So, there was a recent article by Zach Bocap and he’s from fox.com. He indicated that basically Canada and the U.S. in many respects are similar countries. The two North American nations have comparable risk factors such as similar in age populations and the similar distance from the earliest hot spots in Europe and eastern Asia. Yet the outbreak has dramatically been worse in the U.S. than its neighboring country, us in here in the north. Now, per capita, the United States is currently seeing about twice as many confirmed coronavirus cases as Canada and about 30% more of the deaths. Now the American response I think has been infected by partisan politics that shot through with also by federal incompetence. That includes polarizing the need for PPEs, that’s personal protection equipment and washing etcetera and therefore people continue to go to church services and you know, other gatherings which of course has spread the virus. Now Canada’s policies have been efficient in implementing support from leaders across the political spectrum.
The comparison, the case study is now a dysfunctional political system that can quite literally cost lives. Now there’s been three key things. Canada had a more direct experience from the novel coronavirus. So, in 2002, basically we had SARS and that emerged from Gugan, China and eventually spread to about 26 countries. And in 2003 there was a significant outbreak in Canada that centered on Toronto where 44 Canadians died from the disease where the U.S. only had a tiny number of cases and no deaths. Secondly, the public health budget in Canada has increased in recent years whereas in the U.S. by contrast, authorities have been relatively starved of resources. The CDC funding has fallen by 10% over the last decade and basically inflation-adjusted dollars. Now thirdly and finally, every expert I spoke with basically emphasized that the value of Canada’s single-payer health care system at this critical moment, especially when compared to America’s extremely expensive low-capacity system has made that huge difference. Now Canada is not perfect, obviously, you know one of the problems with the Canadian system is that we have a tendency to romanticize that we have this utopia up here where with our you know, basically centralized healthcare system that people are going to get the care that they need. But no country’s response to the outbreak has been perfect. And basically, all we have to do is look at our indigenous population to show that we are lacking in that area.
John Czuba: Dan, how has COVID-19 impacted the insurance industry from what you’ve seen and how about the impact on adjusters and claims in general?
Dan Thompson: Well, sure, I mean I think obviously as we’ve discussed all along here, there was another article by a Neil Bowman. He was a global insurance leader for Deloitte and he indicated that the typical insurance industry is well prepared typically, normally they’re well prepared for a major loss event including pandemics. However, the financial impact will take time to play out as well as the impact for reinsurance companies. Clearly, the reinsurance companies is where the real money is at and that’s how are they going to know how to deal with this, you know, until the financial follow up, you know, has its full effect. But I think it’s attacked on multiple fronts. Now it’s attacked on claim payers, employers and investment managers. Now the long-term impact on insurance companies such as falling equity markets and insurance rates, they’re going to put pressure on these reinsurance balance sheets as we talked about before. And it’s going to affect the bottom line and profitability. That of course is going to translate into higher premiums for individuals. And if we look at the next practical steps, you have to look at you know, basically how this is going to impact the claims adjusters and are they going to be able to underwrite the book of business that they need you know, to cover things like workers compensation, employer’s liability and markets in that area as well.
John Czuba: Dan, what do you see for the future?
Dan Thompson: Well, as we know both Canada and the U.S. are looking at reviewing vaccines. In Canada, here we’re looking at four. There’s the one from Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca and Janssen. And basically, once those vaccines are rolled out, I think people also have a misconception that it’s going to instantly change things. Keep in mind that it’s going to take time and look at the logistics. How are we actually going to give people this, you know, this vaccine. Who gets it first? Obviously there’s lots of talk on the news where they say that people who are vulnerable such as myself with underlying conditions will get it and that obviously people who are frontline workers should get it first and then others will you know get that down the road. So, that’s you know, one logistical issue. The other thing is how do you continue to redo the serum and make sure you can replicate that and get that out on mass. And so clearly that you know, that’s one impact that we have to do and I think by the time this airs, hopefully that is well into place.
So, once that occurs, hopefully things will go back to normal but I think one of the things that COVID has taught us is that some of these virtual conferences may become more of the norm. I’m sure you can appreciate it. It’s a lot cheaper to have somebody log on to a virtual conference than it is to pay for their time out of the office to go into a hotel, to pay for their travel expenses and then of course that loss of productivity by being away from the office, you know? Some of these conferences I was able to tune in and then while I’m listening to the conference, I was able to take calls and you know, do my day-to-day business as well. So, either way, you know, whether it be with COVID-19 or whether it be you know, sort of regular times for lack of a better word. I think the important thing is to establish personal connections and foster the growth and solution even though I cited those examples of me actually going to those two law firms from a marketing standpoint to bolster my business, I think that you know, if you can establish that personal contact, that’s going to serve you well both now and in the future.
John Czuba: Dan, thanks so much for joining us today.
Dan Thompson: Thanks for having me and hope you have a great day.
John Czuba: You too Dan, thanks. You’ve just listened to Dan Thompson, president and CEO of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies with offices in Arizona and Ontario. And you can learn more about Dan’s company at www.deegeerehab.com and special thanks to today’s producer, Frank Voenkel. And thank you all for joining us for Best’s Insurance Law podcast. To subscribe to this audio program, go to our web page www.ambest.com/claimsresource. If you have any suggestions for a future topic regarding an insurance law case or issue, please email us at [email protected]. I’m John Czuba and that is the message.
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