Insurance mixup leaves retirees without coverage

By Susan Sherring

City retirees are crying foul after an insurance switch to a new company has left them in the lurch — some even without coverage.

And the seniors are now being forced to pay for prescriptions and hospital services out of their own pockets on their reduced income. The city recently switched from Manulife to Great-West Life for the insurance provider.

But somehow, when the switch was made, some retirees got lost in the system — not actually lost so much as deleted somehow.

“This is a real black eye on the city,” said Pierre Page, the former city clerk for Ottawa.

“They should be ashamed of his.”

Unlike others, Page did get a new card in the mail, but quickly found out his university-aged son was no longer insured — wasn’t even in the system.

But Page, 60, says his situation isn’t nearly as bad as some others.

He’s been helping another former employee, an 83-year-old friend who has several health issues.

“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 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.”

Bang on.

But given the city’s history, pretty easy to believe a major transition in insurance companies is just one more failed attempt at saving money.

The Sun asked how much the bids were from the two companies, and this was the e-mail response from communications staffer Nicolette Addesa: “The contract was awarded on the basis of best value.”

When all else fails, avoid the question.

The city used a broker, Coughlin and Associates, to deal with both employees and retired employees.

Though the company assured the Sun someone would be in contact with the paper, no call was received.

Orleans Coun. Bob Monette told the Sun he hadn’t heard about the problem and that no one had contacted his office.

John Gray, 73, is another whose life has been disrupted by the problem.

Gray used to run Lansdowne Park, but retired from the city when he was 55.

He too got a letter in October explaining the switch to Great West, and would receive a new card in early December. It never arrived, and Gray began to worry.

At one point, he was told he didn’t exist the system.

Frustrated, he decided to take matters into his own hands and went to Coughlin’s Tremblay Rd. office.

There was what appeared to be an off-duty police officer there, and when he finally got to talk to someone, he said it was through plexiglass!

He was eventually told his information had been sent to Great West Life that very day.

“I had to put my wife in the hospital for an inflamed pancreas; in admitting they wanted my insurance,” Gray said.

“I don’t know why we have to fight on our own behalf. Where’s the city? It’s just been very frustrating,” he said.

Asked why the city didn’t monitor the situation, here’s what Addesa wrote to the Sun.

“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. Both the city and Great West Life are committed to resolving these issues as soon as possible.”

Well, it would appear the city wasn’t even aware of the severity of the problem.

So guess it all depends on your definition of isolated. The Sun has identified at least a dozen retirees frustrated and upset at how the city has handled this.



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