Following a decisive vote in favour of the Ontario Realtor Wellness Program (ORWP) on Tuesday, a mandatory insurance and benefits program for realtors in the province is set to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2024.
With nearly 80 per cent of votes from the province’s 34 member boards supporting the program, it will become a mandatory requirement for members.
Increased annual dues to fund the ORWP
To fund the ORWP, annual dues will increase for Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) members. The cost per individual is expected to be around $660 annually on top of regular fees. Based on the current membership of approximately 96,000, the ORWP would result in an additional $63.3 million in dues being collected.
The increased dues will go towards covering the costs of insurance premiums and administering the program, OREA says.
Tania Artenosi, president of OREA, expressed her enthusiasm for the program, highlighting its affordability and the peace of mind it can provide. “Offering a benefits program that can assist members during trying times has been a long-standing aspiration at OREA, and we are thrilled to have the support of our member boards to do something about it,” she said in a press release.
Artenosi previously said in a video addressing members that providing a “high-quality plan” at a low cost is only possible due to the collective purchasing power of members.
Varied opinions spark heated discussion
This controversial program has generated significant discussion among realtors, reflecting diverse opinions and concerns within the real estate community. Real Estate Magazine’s original article received nearly 100 comments in five days, marking it as one of the most commented-on articles in recent history.
Penny Dutkowski criticized the mandatory program, questioning the negotiation process and the potential lack of value for individual members. Dutkowski argues that a one-size-fits-all approach might not suit everyone’s needs and suggests exploring more flexible options.
Gene Kay expressed support for an optional program with more competitive rates and raised questions about the motivations behind the current proposal. Kay writes, “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 the full fee appears very much like age discrimination.”
Benefits provided by ORWP
The program will include:
- Life insurance
- Critical illness insurance
- Out-of-country emergency medical travel insurance
- Accidental death and dismemberment insurance
There’s also a member and family assistance program that provides virtual mental health support, along with healthcare coverage, including prescription drugs capped at $750, paramedical services (chiropractor, massage, and several others) capped at $750, and medical supplies capped at $500.
No medical test or questionnaire will be required to determine eligibility to participate, though the concern is that for those 65 and over, some benefits will be reduced.
Stacey Evoy, co-chair of the Realtor Wellness Task Force, highlighted that for a cost of under two dollars per day, realtors in the province will gain the assurance of having a safety net.
“And with access to up to $100,000 in life insurance and up to $25,000 of critical illness insurance coverage, plus health benefits including 70 per cent reimbursement of prescription drugs — this plan accounts for a lot of life’s medical necessities and unexpected hardships.”