Federal retirees mixed on Canada Life taking on dental plan

Retired federal government workers are facing Canada Life's coming takeover of their dental plan with mixed emotions, the group representing retirees says.

The National Association of Federal Retirees is happy that Canada Life postponed its taking on the administration of the Pensioners' Dental Services Plan that covers former public servants, said Hélène Nadeau, the association's vice-president

Canada Life was supposed to grab the dental plan's reins from Sun Life next month, Nadeau told Radio-Canada, but will now do so in November.

The delay comes after association members voiced concerns about their recent track record and asked the Treasury Board of Canada to push back the takeover date.

The insurer has been mired in issues, including delayed processing of claims, that are related to its administration of the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) — the main federal health plan covering active and retired government employees.

Canada Life took over that plan last year.

"We were not confident that adding [the retirees' dental plan] to that plan administrator would result in good service," Nadeau said.

The association asked in early 2024 for the switchover to be delayed, Nadeau said, and heard in April that it would be.

The group has been stressing the need for Canada Life to allow older plan members who aren't entirely comfortable online to be able to file claims on paper and deal with the insurer on the phone.

It's also been concerned about whether Canada Life has enough staff to do the work.

"We're not completely reassured that it's going to be fine, but we are happy [with] what we're seeing has been put in place at this time," Nadeau said.

"And we're hoping that Canada Life really learns from the previous experience."

Hélène Nadeau

Aiming for 'as little disruption as possible'

In an emailed statement, Canada Life said it's working with the federal government to ensure dental plan administration reflects the industry's best practices so that "members have access to the care they need, when and where they need it."

In its own emailed statement, the office of Treasury Board President Anita Anand said the decision to delay the start date was made to ensure plan members and dental providers experience "as little disruption as possible during this transition."

The Treasury Board Secretariat said in a separate statement that Canada Life "already" has trained staff in place.

That should greatly facilitate the transition to the new contract and ensure "minimal impact" on those currently participating in the plan, the board's statement said.