Thank You signs are on display outside the Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home in Toronto on Thursday June 25, 2020. Ontario's long-term care facilities are having trouble securing liability insurance for COVID-19, a situation that could lead to major financial trouble for some, an organization representing the majority of the province's nursing homes says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Some long-term care homes can’t get insurance, could be force to close: association

Some long-term care homes can’t get insurance, could be force to close: association

Ontario’s long-term care homes are having trouble securing liability insurance for COVID-19, a situation that could force some of them to close, a group representing more than 70 per cent of the province’s homes says.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association says its homes are being offered new policies without a key provision: coverage for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

The association has now turned to the federal government for help, saying potential claims could place a burden on the homes’ finances, and loans could be denied over the lack of coverage.

“We’re operating in good faith trying to do the best we can, but we really do need help with this and we need help urgently,” said CEO Donna Duncan.

Previously, long-term care homes received $5-million to $10-million coverage for damages or claims related to infectious diseases, Duncan said.

Now, insurance companies are including a “contagious disease exclusion endorsement” in policies for the homes, she said.

COVID-19 and a laundry list of other diseases are specifically not covered, according to one policy obtained by The Canadian Press.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, which represents the majority of insurance companies in the country, said coverage for losses related to communicable diseases is available in certain policies but isn’t easy to get.

“In an active pandemic environment, coverage for pandemic-related financial losses would naturally be extremely difficult to obtain,” spokesman Steve Kee said.

“This situation is akin to trying to get fire insurance when your house is on fire.”

Insurance companies continue to provide general liability insurance to long-term care homes, he said.

Duncan said some homes have already lost liability insurance against infectious diseases when they renewed their deals this summer.

Without that coverage, some homes are being refused loans and lines of credit, she said.

In one case, Duncan said, a small home that hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19 sought to build a new facility to get away from the three- and four-bedroom wards that have proven to be like death traps if COVID-19 got in. The facility needed financing to get the project going, but was denied money from a lender because of the lack of liability insurance for COVID-19, she said.

The lack of coverage against infectious diseases also leaves directors and members of boards personally liable to any legal action, Duncan said.

There are numerous lawsuits, including several class-action suits that have already been brought by grieving families against homes where residents died of COVID-19.

Duncan said the majority of homes have insurance renewals set for Dec. 31.

Her association has pleaded its case to the federal government in a letter sent late last week, asking Ottawa to provide a “backstop” and essentially insure the insurance companies.

“In consultation with insurers, reinsurance companies and major lenders, it is clear to us that long-term care is now essentially uninsurable for outbreaks,” Duncan wrote.

The insurance industry is open to the association’s federal government backstop idea, Kee said.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions to the Minister of Health, which did not answer questions about the request from the long-term care association.

A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government will work with the provinces “to set new, national standards for long-term care that ensure the health, safety, and well-being of residents.”

In Ontario, the majority of homes are for-profit, with the remainder not-for-profit or municipally owned.

Several experts questioned whether it is appropriate for taxpayers to insure for-profit insurance companies and thereby cover any claim against long-term care homes.

Tamara Daly, the director of the York University Centre for Aging Research and Education, said taxpayers providing insurance to the long-term care industry is not workable.

“I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to publicly fund liability insurance,” she said.

Daly and Samir Sinha, the director of health policy research at the National Institute on Ageing and a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said public money would be better spent fixing the long-term care home system in the province rather than fixing the insurance issues.

“If we dealt with the fundamental issues right off the beginning, if homes had enough staffing, enough PPE, they may not have been in the situation in the first place,” Sinha said.

More than 1,900 residents of long-term care homes have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit. The number of cases in the province’s 625 facilities are surging once again as the second wave takes hold, with outbreaks in 72 homes by mid-October.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2020.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press file photo.)
Red Deer city council holds closed-door discussion about proposed aquatics centre

Recommended design, cost and location won’t be made public until next spring

A community gathering space was created in front of the new Red Deer Culture Services Centre before the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer’s Culture Services Centre to get additional $4.6 M in renovations

It’s one of many capital projects approved by city council

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, reported an additional 1,307 COVID-19 cases Tuesday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Mayor
Mayor Veer appointed as Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer has been appointed an Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel by… Continue reading

Const. Jason Tress
Mountie testifies another RCMP officer sexually assaulted her at 2012 party

Former Mountie on trial for sexual assault in connection with incident in northwestern Alberta

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary's Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season's top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
CP NewsAlert: Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

CP NewsAlert: Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney watches late in the second half of the team's MLS Cup soccer match against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Seattle. Vanney has stepped down as coach of Toronto FC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo-Elaine Thompson
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney steps down, says it’s the right time to move on

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney steps down, says it’s the right time to move on

Hamilton Forge FC's Giuliano Frano (8) heads the ball against CD Olimpia's Jorge Benguche (9) during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 second half soccer action in Hamilton, Ontario on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Forge FC looks to win its way into the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday when it takes on Haiti's Arcahaie FC in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF League, a 22-team feeder competition that sends six clubs to CONCACAF's elite club tournament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC loses penalty shootout to Haitian side in CONCACAF League quarterfinal

Forge FC loses penalty shootout to Haitian side in CONCACAF League quarterfinal

Public health must balance science and society: former top doctor

Public health must balance science and society: former top doctor

California boat captain indicted in fire that killed 34

California boat captain indicted in fire that killed 34

President Donald Trump participates in a video teleconference call with members of the military on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump headed to Georgia as runoff boost, but also a threat

Trump headed to Georgia as runoff boost, but also a threat

Flames and exhaust trail behind a Long March-5 rocket carrying the Chang'e 5 lunar mission after it lifted off at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province, early Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back material from the moon's surface for the first time in more than 40 years — an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
China spacecraft lands on moon to bring rocks back to Earth

China spacecraft lands on moon to bring rocks back to Earth

FILE - In this March 16, 2020, file photo, vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for COVID-19 rest on a lab table at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. An influential scientific panel on Tuesday, Dec. 1, is set to tackle one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: When the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots? (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
US panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes

US panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes

Most Read