BCMA benefits decision

On 21 July 2009, I underwent open heart valve surgery at the age of 66. I have been a full member of the BCMA since I entered practice in 1971 and continue to be in full surgical practice and an active member to this day. I have not had a single previous disability claim in my career. Until now. 

You can imagine my disappointment when I applied for PDI benefits (jointly funded by the BCMA and provincial government) and was told by the insurance office that coverage ends at age 65 and so I was automatically deregistered from the PDI program on my 65th birthday.

During my 6-week recuperation off work, I was surprised and encouraged to hear from a GP colleague that in fact the age 65 expiration of benefits had been extended to age 70, as so many docs like myself were not retiring at the magic age of 65. He showed me the letter from the BCMA documenting this change, but I did not remember ever receiving it.

When I called the BCMA insurance office, the reason I did not receive the letter became clear. The changes in the coverage were put into place 8 months after my 65th birthday and only applied to those physicians who were already registered in the PDI program. Although I have been a member of the BCMA for almost 40 years, am still a member, and continue to be in full practice, I am apparently not entitled to the extended coverage to age 70 because I was automatically deregistered on my 65th birthday, 8 months before the rule change!

I find this totally unacceptable. This extended coverage was introduc­ed specifically for physicians like myself. The first thing that was done was to exclude those for whom it was designed. To deny the coverage to an active member of almost 40 years is downright insulting.

The Insurance Committee met to consider the matter. It decided that there could be no change because there was no further funding to cover the group of doctors presently between 65 and 70. On the other hand they stated that when the extension to age 70 was introduced, there was no increase in funding from the BCMA and government at all. The plan was to monitor the situation and just see if the present level of funding would be sufficient to cover it.

Well, maybe they should have done the right thing and immediately reregistered all those BCMA members between the ages of 65 and 70 who were still in active practice when the rules changed so that doctors who had been paying into the PDI fund for their whole careers would also receive the extended benefits that they justly deserve.

I don’t know how many of you out there fall into this category or are aware that you have been excluded from disability coverage that has been extended to all other BCMA members (those under 65 as of 1 April 2008).

So, now you know. I encourage you and all other members who also feel that there has been a travesty of justice to speak your minds so that this wrong can be made right.
—Michael Frimer, MD

Michael Frimer, MD,. BCMA benefits decision. BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 1, January, February, 2010, Page(s) 8 - Letters.

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