The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is considering the implementation of a mandatory insurance and benefits program for its members. the Ontario Realtor Wellness Program (ORWP) program is set to be voted on by the OREA assembly today and, if approved, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
The proposed program aims to address the issue of many realtors lacking private health insurance by offering a comprehensive package of benefits. OREA President Tania Artenosi highlighted that the ORWP would be the first of its kind in North America. The program includes life insurance, critical illness insurance, out-of-country emergency medical travel insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, as well as a member and family assistance program providing virtual mental health support and healthcare coverage.
Members would be required to pay approximately $660 annually for the standard plan, and additional options for dental, vision, and enhanced coverage would be available at their own expense. Notably, the program would be mandatory for all OREA members, regardless of age, with no opt-out provision for those who already have coverage through other providers. The issue of reduced benefits for those aged 65 and above has also raised concerns among some realtors.
Reaction from REM readers
Comments from readers reflect a range of opinions. Some readers criticized the mandatory nature of the program, questioning its cost-effectiveness and suggesting that more competitive rates and coverage options could be available.
Others express support for optional insurance with more choices, raising concerns about age discrimination and the lack of transparency in the tendering process.
Ahead of the vote, Penny Dutkowski criticized the mandatory program, questioning the negotiation process and the potential lack of value for individual members.
Gene Kay expressed support for an optional program with more competitive rates and raised questions about the motivations behind the current proposals. Kay wrote, “An easy solution would have been to provide a few options that agents or brokers can opt in to both for themselves, their families or their administrative staff members. This brings value if it’s a choice.”
John W. Meehan highlighted potential issues related to age discrimination and the lack of transparency in the tendering process, “The time for an optional member health benefit/insurance program is, and remains long overdue,” Meehan says. “Having a mandatory program that penalizes individuals who receive diminishing benefits due to age and still have to pay a full fee appears very much like age discrimination.
Con Cerned suggested exploring cost-saving measures within OREA to offset the expense of the medical plan.
Realtor Jane Puccini welcomes the OREA program because it will serve as the primary plan, with any other coverage becoming secondary. “One never regrets paying the premiums for their house or car insurance, especially when they are made whole again (after) experiencing a loss,” he wrote.
Members are not permitted to participate in Monday’s special meeting
Despite the mixed reactions, OREA says it remains committed to the ORWP. In response to inquiries from members regarding attendance at today’s special meeting, OREA clarified that only member board nominees with voting rights, directors, executive officers, and past presidents would be recognized and able to participate.
In a departure from past practices, OREA’s decision not to recognize members and provide members with a voice at their annual or special meetings has raised eyebrows among some in the industry. Traditionally, members in good standing with the association, including those who have paid their dues and are licensed with a brokerage, have been allowed to attend these meetings and speak during the open forum or on agenda items.
While only board delegates have voting power, the opportunity for all members to express their views has been a longstanding practice. This decision is noteworthy, as it represents the first time in recent memory, and perhaps ever, that OREA has chosen not to grant members the option.
In a statement, a spokesperson for OREA said, “Given that the Member Boards have worked so hard and provided tremendous support to OREA to bring the ORWP before the Assembly through various means of member engagement such as townhalls and surveys, OREA believes that it is only fair and appropriate that the views of the Member Boards be expressed by the Member Board nominees at the upcoming Special Meeting.”
Members were encouraged to provide feedback through a survey on the OREA website or via email.