Canadian Underwriter

B.C. public auto insurer must pay for massage therapy: B.C. Court of Appeal

December 1, 2011   by Canadian Underwriter

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Massage therapy recommended by a family physician and provided by a registered massage therapist is a benefit for which the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) has a legal obligation to pay, the B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled.
The appellate court upheld a ruling from the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which found ICBC was obligated to pay a total of $742 to two infant plaintiffs for soft tissue injuries they sustained in a 2003 motor vehicle collision.
The issue turned on whether massage therapy is a discretionary benefit, or one that the insurer is required to pay under s. 88(1) of Part 7 of the province’s Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act regulation.
The insurer is obligated to pay for benefits listed in s. 88(1) of the act. ICBC notes that massage therapy is not included in that section of the act. It therefore argued massage therapy is a discretionary benefit under s. 88(2)(f), which says the insurer “may” provide “funds for any other costs the corporation in its sole discretion agrees to pay.”
Specifically, s. 88(1) says the corporation “shall…pay as benefits all reasonable expenses incurred by the insured as a result of the injury for necessary medical, surgical, dental, hospital, ambulance or professional nursing services, or for necessary physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, occupational therapy or speech therapy or for prosthesis or orthosis.”
ICBC says that since “message therapy” is not listed in s. 88(1), the intent of the legislature was to exclude it. The Appeal Court, on the other hand, found that when the regulation was read together with the Health Professions Act and its related regulations, “physical therapy may properly be interpreted as including massage therapy.”
The full court decision can be read at:

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