Employer switches insurance carriers leaving employees out in cold

by Will Ashworth08 Jan 2016
Earlier this week the City of Ottawa announced that the switch from Manulife to Great-West Life has led to a number of former city employees now retired losing their benefits – albeit temporarily.
 
It’s a definitely bad press for city administrators because many of the people hurt by this foul up are living on fixed incomes and can’t afford to pay for prescriptions and hospital services out of their own pocket.
 
"This is a real black eye on the city," said Pierre Page, the former city clerk for Ottawa.
"They should be ashamed of this."
 
How exactly were retirees left out in the cold?
 
When the switch was made a number of former employees were deleted from the system rendering their private health insurance coverage non-existent.
 
The city originally put out a tender to two companies to bid for the right to manage the switchover process -- Coughlin and Associates, an Ottawa insurance broker, got the contract – selecting the one that provided the best value to the city. In other words, the lowest cost.
 
"It's really unacceptable this happened in the first place. How many other people has this affected? It's difficult for a lot of people and it's causing stress for them," Page said on Wednesday. "I ended up with issues of my own, but (my 83-year-old friend) didn't even exist. It's just unconscionable the city of Ottawa isn't on top of this, it's just no way to treat former employees."
 
The former employees see this as another example of the city penny-pinching to save a few bucks but the city sees it differently.
 
"The transition to GWL has been very successful and this is an isolated incident. The city has been and continues to partner with GWL in the transition,” wrote the city’s communications staffer Nicolette Addesa in an email to the Ottawa Sun. “Both the city and Great West Life are committed to resolving these issues as soon as possible."
 
At least a dozen former employees were affected by the snafu.

Editor's note: The City of Ottawa has contacted LHP to provide further clarification on this matter. According to the city, "In December, information packages with new benefit identification cards were mailed to all insured employees and retirees at their home address. The City is aware that some retirees did not receive a benefit identification card. The matter is being resolved and the City continues to work with the carrier to ensure a smooth transition. Benefit identification cards for impacted retirees will be mailed during the week of January 11. There is no change to the benefit provisions to insured employees, dependants or retirees. Any eligible claims incurred since January 1, 2016 will be honoured. The City apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused.