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Federal workers and retirees experience issues with new benefits provider


For the last three weeks, Alan Fournier has been desperately trying to get a hold of Canada Life.

“I’ve exhausted about every channel I know to find out what is going on and why I can’t get covered… it’s frightening,” he said. “It’s like there’s nobody there.”

The Wakefield, Que. resident is a retired federal worker, relying on the carrier to cover the thousands of dollars it costs for his medication, including diabetes.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do at the end of the month because I’m going to have to renew those and I can’t get in touch with Canada Life,” he said.

On July 1, the federal government switched medical coverage for its members from Sun Life to Canada Life. That move affected 1.7 million federal public service employees, retirees and their eligible dependents.

It's a big undertaking for the largest health-care plan in Canada. As of June 30, 94 per cent of employees and 75 per cent retired plan members had completed the enrolment process.

Since the transition, Canada Life says it is having trouble keeping up with demand.

In an email to CTV News Ottawa, Canada Life says, "Since July 1, we’ve experienced higher-than-normal call volumes and longer wait times within our call center, driven primarily by those who are working to complete the enrolment process and pharmacies transitioning prescription claim data to the plan.

We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. We’re taking necessary steps to address this increased demand. This includes having a dedicated phone number for PSHCP members – which is now open 7 days a week as we manage this increased volume. We’re also quickly adding a significant number of trained staff to our call centre. Approximately 87% - over 640,000 individuals and their eligible dependents – have successfully enrolled."

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada say they are aware of the issue. Members are still covered and any costs incurred will be reimbursed once they’ve been enrolled.

"The Government of Canada is in constant contact with Canada Life as they work to reduce wait times to reach a Canada Life representative by phone," a statement from the Treasury Board says. "Canada Life is taking immediate steps to address the high volume of calls being received, including increasing the number of trained and security-cleared call centre agents. Plan members can expect to see progressive improvements throughout July and beyond.

"We appreciate patience during this time. We are asking that if plan members have a question that is not urgent, that they wait to contact Canada Life so that those with urgent issues can get through more readily.

But Fournier says time is running out. As of August he'll have to renew his prescriptions and if he's not enrolled by then, he'll have to pay out of pocket.

“I’m in my mid-70s, living on pension,” he said. “The cost of living has skyrocketed. I just don’t have that kind of cash.” Top Stories

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