Cannabis Is Being Added to Canadian Health Insurance Coverage

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Canadian health insurance companies are poised to make some dramatic changes to the coverage they offer. While it is not set to become a part of all individual health insurance or group health insurance plans, some are now starting to cover cannabis as a treatment for a few conditions and problems.

Leaflyandnbsp;is reporting that this may indicate a complete change in how the basic benefits and coverages are changing for people throughout the country. According to Leafly, it all started with an elevator mechanic. Wayne Skinner had sustained a back injury at work. For more than six years, he suffered from debilitating back pain. The one treatment that seemed to offer some relief was medical marijuana. When his union turned him down and said that it was not covered by his group health insurance, he fought back. Despite being turned down three times, he persisted.

Finally, a human rights board ruled recently that Skinner’s medical marijuana should be covered. They found that the denials could be considered a prima facie case of discrimination.

“Hopefully this will help other people in similar situations and eliminate the fight that myself and my family have had to endure, and the hardship that this has resulted in,” Skinner told the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC).

Experts in group health insurance plans and advocates for the medical use of cannabis see this as proof that the tide has changed when it comes to this kind of treatment. They say that before too long, all benefits program will cover this treatment for a number of things.

This month, another big change happened in how medical marijuana is treated. The Loblaw Companies, which is the parent company for Shoppers Drug Mart, has said that it has expanded its employee group benefits plan to cover medical cannabis. Its group health insurance plans cover at least 20,000 employees. This is the largest North American company to embrace the use of medical marijuana.

Not everyone was shocked by this decision. Loblaws President and Executive Chairman Galen G. Weston said, “Weandrsquo;re an industry that is extremely effective at managing controlled substances.”

Two thirds of all people in Canada belong to a private health insurance plan. That is often what these people depend upon to get their prescriptions.

There are some companies who have licenses to produce and distribute medical cannabis to people who have received prescriptions from their physicians. The problem is that all prescription drugs in the country need to be issued a Drug Identification Number (DIN). This gives the drug the government’s full blessing. The agency responsible for giving out the DIN is Health Canada. Unfortunately, for medical pot anyway, is that no DIN has been appropriated for medical cannabis. That means it is not yet regulated nor do group health insurance companies have to consider it to be a legitimate treatment. Most people who live in Canada cannot get their medical marijuana covered.

As more and more evidence has surfaced as to how beneficial medical marijuana can be for treating an array of conditions and problems, the pressure is mounting to offer coverage for it. It is often seen as a more effective and less costly way to treat such conditions as epilepsy, post traumatic stress disorder, back pain, insomnia and other conditions that are hard to treat.

In 2015, a student at the University of Waterloo was thrust into the spotlight. Jonathan Zaid, pushed to have his medical marijuana covered by Sun Life Financial. He needed the medical cannabis to treat his intractable headaches. His experience inspired him to become an advocate for medical cannabis. He started Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

Zaid said, “My case was one of the first [in which a provider agreed to cover medical marijuana]. After that we started to see more openness to it. Mr. Skinnerandrsquo;s case was a human rights issue. That speaks to how seriously employers and other plan sponsors need to consider covering medical marijuana.”

The Director of Health and Disability Policy at Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Joan Weir said, “I see a fairly smooth system of supply and demand five or ten years down the road. I suspect that will lead to medical marijuana being added to plans as a standard benefit.”