The Effect of the Changes of SABS on Attendant Care
The June 1st, 2016, revisions to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule will change how attendant care is covered by auto insurance. For the non-catastrophically injured, most will see these changes effectively eliminate the attendant care benefit.
The biggest change is financial – whereas prior to the revisions attendant care was paid from a separate fund from medical care and rehabilitation benefits, they will be combined and paid from a single fund. Currently, in cases of non-catastrophic personal injuries, the maximum amount payable is $36,000. With the changes, there will be a reduction of funding – with all rehabilitation and medical care sharing the same benefit limit resulting in attendant care having to compete with a number of other therapies for priority. This will place additional strain on a system that already has cases where patients with serious, yet non-catastrophic injuries, run out of attendant care coverage before their surgery or other treatments can take place.
For catastrophic injuries, the combination of benefits being paid from the same limits is also problematic. The previous attendant care benefit was a full million dollars – as of June 1st, 2016, medical care, rehabilitation, and attendant care will all be sharing a single million dollar statutory benefit. And, with the severity associated with catastrophic injuries, surgery and therapy will likely take priority over attendant care. This is particularly problematic, as one million dollars is often insufficient to cover a lifetime of attendant care benefits after a catastrophic personal injury, much less both attendant care and treatment expenses.
On first blush, it seemed that the package of revisions included a positive benefit of extending the time during which attendant care was payable for the non-catastrophically injured from two years to five. However, the limit of the amount payable did not correspondingly increase. Running out of funds for attendant care was already an issue for patients with non-catastrophic injuries, and increasing the timeframe during which they are eligible to receive attendant care benefits provides no solution when there isn’t enough money in the first place.
The new changes to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule represent a severe problem when it comes to providing attendant care for those who have suffered a personal injury. The challenge ahead for attendant care providers will be to find a way to provide a high quality of care with even less funding – and in the end, it may be that the ability of a patient to receive quality attendant care depends more on whether they bought optional insurance coverage than statutory benefits. Once again, a reminder to all to review their insurance coverage at the time of policy renewal.