The ORWP after its first quarter: How it’s gone and where it’s headed


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The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA)’s controversial Ontario Realtor Wellness Program (ORWP) has experienced a successful first quarter since its launch this year, according to the organization.


‘A very good sign for a newly implemented program of this size and scope compared to peers across the industry’


OREA says that over 68,000 health claims have been made and 61 travel claims have been filed. 32 families have received assistance with life insurance in an emergency. Over 355 general practitioner consultations (with a wait time of only eight minutes) have also taken place.

The association is pleased with the usage of this product. “We designed a program that we knew would help our members and what we’ve seen so far is a very good sign for a newly implemented program of this size and scope compared to peers across the industry.”

The program, which is administered by Comprehensive Benefit Solutions became mandatory on 1 January. Tim Hudak says the program was designed to help its members and their family by providing them with a safety-net for health benefits.

“It’s been incredible to see how many Ontario realtors are already benefitting from the support offered through the ORWP,”He notes.

“When we surveyed our members we found out that close to 60 per cent did not have any kind of health care coverage and up to 40 per cent reported they didn’t have access to life insurance. So they’re walking a tightrope every day because they love the profession, they love helping their clients, but they were putting their health and financial circumstances and those of their families at risk.”


Launching a new product is a huge challenge.


Hudak explains that OREA being the first has been a major challenge in launching the program and implementing it. He says the implementation has been an ongoing learning process. “Things could always go smoother when it comes to implementation but given how many people have benefitted from the program already, I suspect to see other professional associations follow.”

Hudak stresses, “This has been the largest onboarding of a health and insurance program in Canada — one of the largest of the last couple of decades. Almost 100,000 members are now covered by this program. And it’s a huge program. There’s a complexity as well because we basically have 29 member boards that are 29 different corporations, all with their own sets of data and ways of doing things.”

He says that with nearly 100,000 members it was difficult to ensure that everyone received their welcome emails, registered for the system, and received the information they needed to receive the benefits. “That’s going to be a challenge for any kind of insurance program, let alone one of this size.”

He admits that with the member boards’ various approaches and data, ensuring information was accurate did cause growing pains early in the process and longer waits for service.

He notes that despite the implementation challenges, “We’ve done it, and (individuals) in real estate and their families are now seeing the benefits.”


Thanks to members for their positive feedback


Hudak says OREA received a lot positive feedback from members, especially those who had never used a benefits program. Many also find that it is user-friendly and offers a streamlined process for getting benefits approved or submitting claims.

“There have been some very touching stories of realtors with pre-existing conditions, for example, (victims of) cancer or a heart attack, who couldn’t find insurance to save their lives. Now, because of the ORWP and the support of their fellow realtors, they have a support package when it comes to health and life insurance,”He says.

The implementation challenges have been smoothed. “I’m pleased to say by investing wisely in resources for the program, our wait times are down to about three minutes when you call or within five minutes if you request a call back for support from the program.”


‘Fear-mongering’Those who are opposed


Hudak points out that there was a lot fear-mongering by those opposed to the new program, implying that thousands realtors would lose their benefits from existing programs. 

“That simply has not been the case. We’re not aware of a single realtor member who has been kicked out of their existing program because of the ORWP,”He says.

“We’re seeing more and more realtors benefitting from this program each and every day. The foundational decision to have it as an all-in program that’s a safety net for realtors — whether (they) work for a large brokerage or small, in a big city or a small town — has demonstrated to be a success.”


Positive user experiences


Lana Morgan is a realtor at Royal LePage Key Realty Sarnia in Ontario. She says that she has supported the program from its inception. Her son is an epileptic realtor.

“For him, it was coverage that he would never, in a normal circumstance, be able to afford nor would he possibly even be able to obtain it no matter what the cost,”Morgan, who is yet to submit a claim for benefits, explains.

“Myself, personally, the $100,000 in life insurance was about a third of the cost of me getting it elsewhere. I did not need dental or prescriptions because I am covered under my husband’s policy for that, but it’s everything else. At some point, I could still need that … Living in a border city, we go to the United States all the time (and) that extra coverage is nice to have.”

Kevin Thompson, realtor with Re/Max Prime Properties Unique Group, in Sarnia says he used the medical claims included in the program to get prescriptions. “And honestly we’ve had no issues. Getting things set up I struggled a little bit but that was on me,”He recalls. “The help desk that day was fabulous in walking me through it … Overall, my experience with it has been positive.

For us, it’s an added insurance. Hopefully, we never have to use it but for us it’s affordable … We welcomed the program right from the start (and have) been in full support of it since day one … It’s going to help a lot of people and for that, I’m thankful we have it.”


‘Seems to be something that people are not talking about as much’


Karen Yolevski, COO, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., says she hasn’t heard a lot from realtors following the ORWP’s implementation.

“Since it’s been implemented, other than a couple of administrative questions, people asking how they sign up or how they access information, submission of claims, we haven’t really heard too much,”She makes a note. “I’ve heard a few anecdotal stories about people successfully submitting claims and receiving benefits. So that’s great news that people are taking advantage of the plan but otherwise it seems to be something, now that it’s in effect, that people are not talking about as much.”


Program opposition continues


Despite OREA’s success with the ORWP, there continues to be opposition to the program, which costs OREA members about $660 annually for the standard plan in addition to regular OREA dues of $110.

A GoFundMe site has been created to raise funds for legal action. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise money for legal actions. There has been a complaint filedHuman Rights Tribunal of Ontario. A petition was also started about the mandatory nature. 

As of April 15, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $152,280 out of a $350,000 target. These funds will be used to support the legal challenge brought by McMillan LLP, Toronto, against HRTO for age and disability discrimination.


‘Ready to pursue applications at whatever pace the Tribunal sets’


Rachel Wong of McMillan LLP said that the matter had been brought before HRTO on November 20, 2023. She asked the Tribunal to expedite and provide immediate assistance to realtors. 

“Both of those steps were opposed by OREA and so at this point we remain ready to pursue the applications at whatever pace the Tribunal sets for them to be heard,”Wong explains.

“There is a GoFundMe that was started in the fall of last year and if realtors wish to continue to support those steps it does remain open (to) support our effort.

We are always ready to take the necessary steps to bring this matter before a judge and have it decided. We regularly hear the frustrations of realtors and we really want to pursue those next steps.”


18 890 signatures have been collected so far


Liz Polak is a realtor with Century 21 Miller Real Estate, located in Oakville, Ontario. The ORWP says that Liz Polak is one of the organizers behind the GoFundMe Campaign.The lives of thousands of real estate agents, and their families, are negatively affected. “I get emails from members all the time. (They’re) literally crying about this.”

Polak According to the report, all agents over 65 will be required to pay the same fee for the mandatory ORWP in exchange for reduced benefits.

A petition against ORWP that was started in June of 2023 and organized Tina Forte from Red and White Realty Inc. Waterloo received 18,890 signatures. The text accompanying it says not being a member of OREA affects a person’s ability to trade in organized real estate and that, “How OREA has the authority to meddle in a self-employed individual’s personal choices that aren’t real estate related is still baffling.”

“The fact that if we don’t participate we lose our local board affiliation, that’s bad enough because our local boards provide a whole lot of resources for us,” Forte shares. “But we also lose OREA and CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association). We lose the OREA (or) Ontario forms. We lose the realtor designation … It’s not right that they’ve tied it to our ability to do our job.”


OREA’s response


OREA said in a press release that it could not comment on matters currently before the courts, or any tribunal.

It mentions that. “As indicated in the research findings of a member survey done in 2019, over half of OREA members reported that a ‘Safety Net’ package was very important.”

The statement also mentions the Realtor Wellness Task Force “In February 2023, the OREA board of directors appointed the Realtor Wellness Task Force to examine the viability and scope of a province-wide insurance and benefits program for all OREA members. The Task Force was comprised of realtor volunteers from across the province, covering all OREA regions.”

OREA points out that results of a survey (available from April 28 to June 20, 2023) indicate the majority of realtors did not have the specific types of insurance coverage that are included in the ORWP’s standard plan (for example, 73 per cent of members had no critical illness insurance coverage and 60 per cent had no healthcare coverage).


Hudak said that OREA would continue to look at the program and see if additional benefits could be provided, if some benefits were not being utilized, or if they needed to substitute a different benefit. “But we’ll need some more data before we would turn our minds to those types of enhancements,”He says.


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