As part of the Nortel Bankruptcy, one of the biggest victims were employees who were on disability. The disability insurance ended up in a mess, and those on disability lost their benefits. I knew a few folks who were directly impacted by this, and it makes me very upset thinking of them. Could this happen again? You’d hope not, but nothing much has changed.
More Insurance that Doesn’t Quite Insure
Behold the plight of the 400+ Nortel employees (Canadian) who have been living on disability insurance. They will be cut off from their benefits. This has come to light in the media finally. Nortel officially disappeared a while ago.
How can this be, you ask? Nortel and other large companies typically self insure these kind of plans. This means though it looks like you have your insurance with a large insurance company, you don’t. Your policy is held by your employer and is paid out by your employer (when you make a claim). To the large company it is much cheaper to have the insurance company simply administer the Insurance Policies. The money comes from the large company directly (rather than simply paying premiums to the insurance company and have them profit from the programs).
So what is the problem? The obvious issue with Nortel, is that the company does not exist any more. Anyone who is owed money through this kind of disability policy is now only an unsecured creditor, and is likely to get very little (if any) more money. The fact that this debt can be dodged by the firm by simply declaring bankruptcy is bad (in my opinion).
So what can be done? For the folks at Nortel, not much more. They have hammered out a deal to get whatever moneys they can. As of the cut off date, however, they will be without income, leaving them few options to live on. They may have access to the Canada pension plan disability, but not much else. For those that have disability insurance with large firms that are currently self-insuring, they should be contacting their MP’s right away to have put in place some kind of protection system for this kind of insurance policy.
There are two pieces of legislation on the books about this topic:
- Bill S-216 An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement to protect beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans (authored by Senator Art Eggleton)
- C-476 An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (unfunded Pension Plan Liabilities) (author Wayne Marston (Hamilton-East-Stoney Creek))
Talk to your MP and MPP about these two acts and why they died.
Pension reform is needed as well, but these “policies” being held on the companies books as debt liabilities and not like a pension (which is held by an Arms length company, that is funded by the Insuror), puts 1.1 Million people at risk currently (according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (from the CBC post Disabilty Insurance at risk for 1.1 Million)).
If you are in this kind of disability insurance program, you may be at risk and it would be in your best interest to follow up on this issue.
What really upsets me, is I paid for this insurance when I worked at Nortel, and it was a very expensive premium that was paid for peace of mind, yet the money effectively went into the companies coffers, instead of a safe place in case I needed it?
The worst part of this whole story, is I know people directly effected by this cut off, and they are the ones who need help. We shall see how this shakes out, but if anyone knows more about this, please feel free to comment.
I am most likely in the same situation now. I am a Civil Servant and my guess is that the Government self-insures. This couldn’t happen again, could it? Remember Nortel was too big to fail. The government couldn’t declare bankruptcy, could it?
Other Nortel Disability Stories
- Long Term Disability Insurance more opinions on the Nortel disability insurance debacle.
- Long Term Disability Insurance is a good thing to get, especially if you are the sole income earner in your family.
- Disability Insurance vs. Critical Illness Insurance, oh yes there is a difference so don’t get confused.
- Nortel : What is Left? Wasn’t much, and the Lawyers took most of the scraps from that.
- Plan for Emergencies always. Have an emergency fund, but having disability insurance is important too.
- Insurance: Paying for Something You Never Want to Use sums it all up, doesn’t it?