Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

A committee studies the transition from Sun Life to Canada Life

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Long reimbursement times have been denounced since the arrival of Canada Life in the federal public service. (Archive photo)

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The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on Thursday examined the move of “Canada's largest health care plan,” the federal public service's insurance provider, from Sun Life to Canada Life .

Witnesses were heard and questioned by MPs who are members of the Committee. Some deputies did not mince their words towards the witnesses.

So Liberal MP Parm Bains asked: What did you do to ensure Canadians would benefit from this $514 million contract?

Remember that long reimbursement delays have been denounced since the arrival of Canada Life in the federal public service. Gaps in customer service as well as the fact that certain medications and treatments are no longer covered have angered several federal officials.

The Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the Acquisitions Branch, Mollie Royds, reminded the Committee that like any significant change from one service provider to another, particularly for programs of this magnitude, transition-related issues are not unexpected and are therefore planned for by all parties.

Ms. Royds said the contract between the federal government and Canada Life includes an 18-month start-up phase. This phase allowed Canada Life to take the necessary measures to prepare.

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Once officially launched within the federal public service, the 1st July 2023, Canada Life also had a six-month transition period. This period must end in January.

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Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Acquisitions Branch, Mollie Royds.

The contract has provisions relating to the performance of the contract and this is something we will look at after the end of the transition period, Ms Royds responded to MEPs' criticism .

She nevertheless acknowledged before the Committee that there is still work to be done.

We have learned lessons that we will apply to this contract and any major transition.

A quote from Mollie Royds, Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the Directorate General of Supply

Ms Royds also expressed optimism for the future, emphasizing that the situation is moving towards the level of service expected by members and is in the right direction at this stage.

To date, Canada Life has informed the government that the wait time at the call center is one to three minutes, Royds said. Average processing time for refund requests is 2.2 days.

The president of the Public Service Commission of Canada, Marie-Chantal Girard, for her part added that the transition to Canada Life proved to be an initiative This is the first time we have had a new administrator in 27 years.

Witnesses from Canada Life also addressed Standing Committee members on Thursday.

Canada Life's Senior Vice President of National Accounts , Ryan Weiss, acknowledged that the transition has not been easy for all members of the public service health care plan.

We are sorry to those who have been poorly served in recent months.

A quote from Ryan Weiss, Senior Vice President of National Accounts at Canada Life

Mr. Weiss is committed to rectifying the situation. He spoke in particular about a plan implemented by Canada Life to improve customer service.

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Canada Life Senior Vice President of National Accounts, Ryan Weiss.

This plan made it possible to reduce waiting times at the call center, speed up the resolution of requests and process urgent cases, he explained.

Call center hours have been extended to seven days a week, Weiss said. The number of call center agents has also been doubled.

We expect to achieve targeted service levels [at] at the end of January 2024 to return to historical norms, he said.

Regional vice-president of the Quebec region for Canada Life, Thi Vu, for her part explained the problems that the provider had to face during the launch services.

In July, it's the quantity, it's the scale, it's the quantity, “The number of calls we received was unexpected,” she noted. As of July 1, these calls were eight times [more than] what the previous provider was receiving.

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