Insurance companies moving forward in covering medical marijuana in Canada

Published May 19, 2019 11:05 a.m. ET
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Medical marijuana is becoming a mainstream drug, and insurance companies are having to move forward with their perception of medical marijuana.

Sun Life Financial Inc. became the first major insurance company that agreed to provide coverage for medical marijuana for its members with group benefit plans.

Sun Life believed two factors that warranted the use of marijuana coverage being added to the consumer’s benefits package.

• The interest was there
• Plenty of cannabis research available to support the use of medical cannabis for health therapy

Studies have been conducted and have found that patients were experiencing major health benefits ranging from insomnia to chronic pain and may conditions in-between.

Sun Life currently covers medical marijuana prescriptions for cancer treatment side effects, including nausea and vomiting and pain from the disease. Multiple sclerosis effects, including neuropathic pain. HIV/AIDS presenting with anorexia is also included in the conditions that are covered, palliative care must also be mentioned in the medical conditions that are covered by the company.

Unions are major supporters for delivering medical cannabis to the members. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union saw the need for medical marijuana to be added to their benefit packages. The added benefit established in 2017 included an allowance for medical marijuana. $3000.00 was allocated for the members and dependents, that medically licensed practitioner wrote prescriptions for, though the cannabis must be purchased from a legal, authorized source licensed to sell medical marijuana.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. was the first company in Canada to provide marijuana coverage under their plan. Many believe that medical marijuana should be covered the same as many other drugs in Canada. However, the issue seems to be that medical marijuana does not have a DIN or drug identification number due to the fact it did not go through the Health Canada process for approval of a drug.

A forerunner in the provision of medical cannabis for employees was Starseed Medicinal Inc. This company was the first medical cannabis company that signed an agreement for supply and service with the Laborer’s International Union of North America to provide the members with legal,medical marijuana.

Moving forward, Great-West Life has expanded it’s coverage of medical marijuana, and the agreement will include Shoppers Drug Mart to be the deliverer of the Medical Cannabis Coaching program.

Presently medical marijuana is not available at a retail pharmacy. The program from Great West Life will coordinate the delivery of medicine to homes and provide the essential counselling and support by e-mail or phone contacts.

There are strict controls that GWL has implemented to ensure that the program remains sustainable. This will include a capped maximum and eligibility guidelines to ensure the proper use of the drug. Processing the claims for medical marijuana through pay-direct drug cards will enable the consumer to be reimbursed at the point of sale which is available at present only in Ontario.

As we move forward the question often heard “is there a medical marijuana doctor near me?” may be a redundant question as more medical physicians come on board with the fact that medical marijuana is a powerful healing drug proven through cannabis research. Medical marijuana is just that and should not be a question as to whether the doctors can prescribe this medication that, at present, does not come with a DIN number.

The more cannabis research conducted will provide big companies with information and facts to support Canadian Health Insurance coverage for the marijuana plant be provided for all.

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