Canada Life fiasco: Kari’s story

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. 

Long delays and hold times are not the only problems public sector workers are having with Canada Life Insurance. Since the government of Canada transitioned the federal health care plan from Sun Life to Canada Life, the benefits of many of our members have been severely impacted. For Kari, a federal public service worker in Kelowna, BC, the transition has been incredibly damaging to her health.  

Kari relies on medication for her heart, brain and muscles, and to manage pain. Since the switch to Canada Life, she has been living “nothing short of a nightmare,” she says. 

Between her and her retired partner, they have only been able to get their claims partially covered, even when coordinating their benefits, without any valid explanation why their coverage is different than it was under their previous health and benefits provider.  

Kari depends on monthly injections for migraines, which cost $700 every month. If she doesn’t get these injections, she lives with severe migraines for 15 to 20 days a month. Canada Life claims that the province covers the injection, but the province is telling her that Canada Life has to cover it until her deductible is paid up.  

Since the transition in July, Kari and her partner have paid out of pocket for more than $3,000 in medical bills, hoping some of it will get reimbursed eventually. For now, she has had to stop receiving her migraine shots because they simply cannot take on the additional financial burden when they’re already feeling pinched by rising costs.  

“I know there are people in worse positions than me, but what is the point of paying into a plan that does not give what is promised?” she said.  

Now, she’s been told all she can do is wait; Canada Life advised her they are roughly a month behind on processing special requests. Kari has no choice; she has to live with debilitating migraines until her claims are processed. Hoping to escalate her case, she has reached out to the ombudsperson for help and turned to her MP for support.  

This situation is unacceptable. Because of this fiasco, workers are now faced with a difficult choice: paying their bills, dealing with chronic issues or getting their medication.   

The Canada Life transition is quickly becoming another fiasco like Phoenix before it as the insurance provider and the federal government continue to mismanage benefits for federal workers. The government of Canada must hold Canada Life accountable for the large number of issues members are facing and outline clear steps to resolve the ongoing issues with service delivery and response times.  

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.  




November 10, 2023