The government of Canada’s decision to transition to Canada Life to provide health insurance benefits for more than 1.7 million current and former federal public service workers and their dependents has caused frustrating challenges and delays for plan members. We’re highlighting some of the ongoing issues that members are facing as we continue to pressure the government and urge members to take action for the government to resolve issues with Canada Life.
For Bianca*, a single mom and federal public service worker living in the Yukon, navigating the health care system is already difficult. And because she needs a specialist for her chronic condition, it’s even more complicated. Specialists from BC have scheduled visits to the territory, which makes appointments all the more difficult to get.
Bianca has to deal with these complexities regularly because she has a neurological issue that requires regular injections by a specialist. Without benefits, these injections that she gets four times a year would cost a little over $1,000 per visit.
Her situation is now exacerbated because of the transition to Canada Life. Since July 1, she has had to make the hard decision to delay her treatments because she's unsure if or when she will be reimbursed if she pays out of pocket.
After waiting two years to see a specialist, Bianca finally got an appointment two weeks before the scheduled transition to the new insurer. Hoping to make sure the hefty price tag on her treatment would be reimbursed without issue, Bianca attempted to contact Canada Life and get pre-approval. All she got was radio silence. So, she decided to take matters into her own hands. After a month-long process of positive enrollment, she finally found the forms herself, filled out the paperwork, got the neurologist to sign off and sent it in August.
By the time September rolled around, she still hadn’t heard back from Canada Life. Bianca tried email, the online chat function, and even Facebook with no luck. When she finally reached someone at Canada Life, she was told they never received the pre-approval form. She then had to fax it four separate times before it was finally received. She adds: “It's a total circus. They couldn't even tell me why the process is so complicated. I’ve had to take time off and spend a whole afternoon at the pharmacy printing tons of documents. And I still don’t have approval.” Since then, she has not heard anything back from her insurance. Four months in, she lives with daily chronic pain because she cannot afford the injections without her benefits.
For now, when the pain gets bad, she has a backup medication to help mitigate the problem. However, this medication is also very expensive. When those run out, she's not sure what to do. Her experience with Canada Life doesn’t give her any confidence she’ll have success getting this medication reimbursed.
Bianca’s story is one shared by tens of thousands of other workers who are struggling with the transition to Canada Life and feel like their insurer – and the federal government, their employer – have abandoned them.
Workers have to choose between paying their bills, getting their medication or living with chronic pain. This is unacceptable. Workers pay for these benefits. They deserve to have access to them when they need them.
This government clearly hasn’t learned the lessons of the Phoenix pay disaster and continues to mismanage the implementation of essential services for its own employees. The Government of Canada made the decision to transition to Canada Life, and it is their responsibility to hold Canada Life accountable for the many problems that members are facing.
If you have been or continue to be impacted by the transition to Canada Life, write to your MP to pressure Treasury Board President Anita Anand and Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada Yves Duclos to take accountability for improving insurance benefits for PSAC members.
*For fear of reprisals, our member has chosen to remain anonymous. PSAC has chosen a pseudonym.