PSAC files grievance over health benefits transition

PSAC demands compensation for members affected by the problematic switch to Canada Life for health benefits

PSAC files grievance over health benefits transition

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has filed a grievance against the Treasury Board, seeking damages for issues from the shift to Canada Life as the new health benefits administrator, reports CBC News

Sasha Hart, general counsel with PSAC, addressed the standing committee on government operations and estimates, outlining the challenges faced by members.   

Hart criticized the government's handling of the transition, stating, “It has failed to protect the rights of members to a functioning health-care plan,” and highlighted the particularly adverse impacts on members with disabilities and intersecting identities.  

This transition occurred on July 1, 2023, when the federal government switched from Sun Life to Canada Life.   

PSAC's grievance seeks not only financial compensation but also general damages for the pain, suffering, and stress associated with the move to Canada Life.  

Seth Sazant, a PSAC negotiator, expressed his concern, saying, “This system is fundamentally failing our members.” He pointed out ongoing issues such as delays in prior authorization for expensive drug prescriptions and a cybersecurity incident affecting benefits for members working outside of Canada. 

 MSH International, contracted by Canada Life to administer international benefits, experienced a cybersecurity incident on February 9, leading to a pause in services and an ongoing investigation.  

MSH International stated, “We are working to determine if personal information was affected by this incident,” and promised to notify impacted individuals if necessary.   

Due to this incident, international claims processing has been halted, leaving thousands of claims unprocessed. Sazant reported that about 3,500 claims are over 60 days old and more than 7,000 are at least 30 days old and awaiting fulfillment.   

Treasury Board president Anita Anand, in response, urged Canada Life to ensure MSH International meets its obligations to federal public servants promptly. Anand mentioned that MSH has resumed processing claims.   

Meanwhile, Canada Life's website reports that contact center calls are being answered efficiently, with digital claims processed within a day and paper claims within six days, on average.   

However, for many federal public servants, retirees, and their families, the transition to Canada Life has been far from seamless.  

Following the switch, CBC News received numerous reports from Canadians affected by the change, with benefits being unexpectedly cut off, leading to significant expenses for treatments and medications.