Life, disability, critical illness and long-term care insurance represent a significant commitment by consumers to protect themselves and their families in the event of a disaster. They’ve put their trust and money in the insurance companies with which they signed the contract. In return, they expect their beneficiaries to be able to collect on the claim when the time comes. But what if the insurance company becomes insolvent? There is a chance that it may happen, since benefits are usually paid many years down the line, and anything can happen in the meantime. Even large insurers are not immune to insolvency. Much like the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation protects investors’ deposits held at banks, Assuris protects policy owners from the failures of insurance companies.
What is Assuris?
Assuris is a not for profit organization that protects policy owners by transferring policies of an insolvent insurance company to another insurer, minimizing the loss of the policy owners. Rather than cancelling the policy and paying out a reduced cash compensation, transferring to another solvent company ensures the continuity of coverage as intended under the original terms of the policy. On transfer, policy owners retain at least 85% of the insurance benefits they were promised. It’s like having insurance on your insurance policy.
The protection that Assuris offers falls under four categories: death benefit, health expense, monthly income and cash value.
Death benefit: This is the life insurance payout to beneficiaries in the event of the life insured’s death. It applies to both term and permanent policies and also includes group life insurance. You will retain up to $200,000 or 85% of the promised death benefit, whichever is higher.
Health expense: Individual and group critical illness, travel and health and dental insurance fall under this category. In the event of an insolvency, Assuris will protect up to $60,000 or 85% of the promised health expense benefit, whichever is higher.
Monthly income: All benefits that pay out a monthly income, such as individual and group disability insurance, long-term care insurance and payout annuities are included. Your monthly income will be protected up to $2,000/month or 85% of the promised amount, whichever is higher.
Cash value: This includes the cash value accumulated within a universal life or whole life policy, as well as the value of any segregated funds. Assuris will guarantee up to $60,000 or 85% of the promised cash value, whichever is higher.
Here is a table of some examples to show you the protection offered by Assuris:
|Type of benefit||Original benefit amount||Explanation||Assuris protection amount|
|Death benefit||$100,000||Since it is less than $200,000, the entire amount is protected||$100,000|
|Death benefit||$500,000||Since it is greater than $200,000, 85% of the original benefit is protected||$425,000|
|Health expense||$50,000||Since it is less than $60,000, the entire amount is protected||$50,000|
|Health expense||$200,000||Since it is greater than $60,000, 85% of the original benefit is protected||$170,000|
|Monthly income||$1,000/month||Since it is less than $2,000/month, the entire amount is protected||$1,000/month|
|Monthly income||$4,000/month||Since it is greater than $2,000/month, 85% of the original benefit is protected||$3,400/month|
|Cash value||$50,000||Since it is less than $60,000, the entire amount is protected||$50,000|
|Cash value||$200,000||Since it is greater than $60,000, 85% of the original benefit is protected||$170,000|
Assuris does not collect premiums from policy owners. Instead, every life insurance company operating in Canada are required by law to become members of Assuris and policy owners are automatically covered. Currently, there are 80 life insurance companies that are members of Assuris.
There are several steps to determining whether or not you are eligible for coverage, and how much protection you’ll receive. First, your policy must be issued in Canada by a life insurance company that is a member of Assuris. Next, you must be a Canadian citizen when your policy was issued or when the insurer became insolvent. Finally, identify which one of the above categories your benefit falls under and calculate your protected amount using the above formulas.
If you have multiple policies with the same insurance company, the benefits are combined before the calculation is performed. For example, if you have $200,000 of term insurance and $100,000 of whole life insurance, they must be added up before determining the amount of Assuris protection. In this case, the guaranteed amount is 85% of $300,000, which is $255,000.
Since Assuris was formed in 1990, there have been four insurance companies that have become insolvent, requiring Assuris to transfer the policies to solvent companies. The total benefit payout by Assuris to policy owners is over $200 million.
If you’ve ever worried about your life insurance company going out of business, you now know that even if it does, your policy will retain most if not all of its value thanks to Assuris.