Federal Retirees and the transition to Canada Life

August 22, 2023
Concerned adult woman.
Members are feeling the strain of the problematic PSHCP transition, and Federal Retirees is calling for immediate improvements.

The transition to Canada Life has caused challenges for many members, difficulties compounded by the inability to speak to a call centre agent.

These ongoing issues have prompted questions about the decision to transfer the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) to Canada Life and the role of the Association.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, as the plan sponsor, cyclically engages in a competitive retendering of the PSHCP service contract as part of the public service benefits plan process. The last contract was awarded in 2009.

Following an open procurement process, the government announced that Canada Life was awarded the PSHCP contract on December 1, 2021.

After a transition period, the plan administrator changed from Sun Life to Canada Life on July 1, 2023.

On the same day, key improvements to the health care plan were implemented. These benefits were negotiated by the government, public service unions and Federal Retirees, as the pensioner representative. 

The procurement of a new insurer for the PSHCP was not part of these renewal negotiations.

Even though July 1 was an important date for both initiatives, the change to Canada Life from Sun Life was initiated and implemented by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

In its role as pensioner representative, Federal Retirees engaged with Treasury Board from the outset and clearly outlined its expectations for a smooth transition. The Association also identified what was needed to support retirees during the process, including a reliable call centre and clear communication as well as support for paper enrolment forms and for vulnerable plan members.

The contract for the PSHCP is an agreement between the Government of Canada and Canada Life. It is their joint responsibility to deliver a seamless transition, and to monitor and correct performance issues. It was also their responsibility to ensure that appropriate resources were in place for a change that had been planned for over a year.

To keep its community well-informed about the transition, the Association welcomed questions about positive enrolment and communicated reminders and updates through e-newsletters, Sage magazine and local branch meetings.

The Association requested a meeting with the Treasury Board president’s office to discuss members' challenges with the transition and necessary improvements. This meeting was held in July.  The pensioner representative also called for a meeting of the PSHCP Partners Committee to address the need for immediate improvements.

In the recent cabinet shuffle, Minister Anita Anand was appointed the new president of the Treasury Board of Canada. Federal Retirees has requested a meeting as soon as possible to ensure correcting these issues is a top priority.

Plan members need and deserve a high standard of service and to feel confident about the ability of their health insurance provider to answer their questions and address their concerns in a timely manner. This is essential for plan members to manage and maintain their health. 

Improvements are ongoing, but members have been patient enough.

The Federal Retirees team will continue to provide updates on the steps we’re taking to bring members’ needs forward as well as on improvements that are implemented by Canada Life.