N.L. car accident victims can soon get treatment without prior insurance approval

Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley introduces new automobile insurance protocols that will allow people injured in car accidents to get health-care treatments without prior approval from an insurance company.  (Danny Arsenault/CBC - image credit)
Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley introduces new automobile insurance protocols that will allow people injured in car accidents to get health-care treatments without prior approval from an insurance company. (Danny Arsenault/CBC - image credit)
Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley introduces new automobile insurance protocols that will allow people injured in car accidents to get health-care treatments without prior approval from an insurance company.
Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley introduces new automobile insurance protocols that will allow people injured in car accidents to get health-care treatments without prior approval from an insurance company.

Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley says patients can be pre-approved for between 10 and 21 appointments with a health-care practitioner. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is introducing new automobile insurance protocols that will allow people injured in car accidents to get health-care treatment without prior approval from an insurance company.

Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley told reporters Tuesday morning that the new protocols allow those who were in a car accident to immediately seek treatment for the "most common" types of injuries: whiplash, sprains and strains.

Patients can be pre-approved for between 10 and 21 appointments with a health-care practitioner, says Stoodley, and the treatment provider will directly bill the insurance company.

"This means if you're in a car accident, you can get treatment faster, you don't have to pay out of pocket," Stoodley said at a news conference Tuesday morning. The new protocols take effect Dec. 2.

Optional for health-care providers

Stoodley said opting into the new protocols is optional for patients and treatment providers but the government hopes "most, if not all, will sign up to offer this service."

It's mandatory for insurance companies, however. Stoodley says health-care providers will get the same rates as WorkplaceNL when they bill insurance providers directly.

"It will require some work for the insurance companies," said Stoodley. "So we've been having discussions with them, but it is in place in Alberta and Nova Scotia, so they can kind of copy what happens there."

The government will be communicating with physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and other health-care providers, said Stoodley, to ensure they're aware of and on board with the new protocols.

When people who have been in an accident visit a health-care provider, she said, the practitioner will work up a quick treatment plan and then can pre-approve patients.

The number of appointments someone is approved for depends on the severity of the accident, said Stoodley. Patients won't have to pay out of pocket for between 10 and 21 appointments.

The new protocol, called "diagnostic and treatment protocols," came out of the Public Utilities Board's 2019 automobile insurance review — the last recommended change from the review to be implemented.

"I do believe most practitioners will opt in," said Stoodley. "Obviously there'll be some forms they have to fill out to start, but once they're over that, it should be smooth sailing, and the insurance companies are fully on board."

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