Canadian insurer the Co-operators is introducing optional medical cannabis coverage for large group plan sponsors who wish to add it to their benefits plan. The coverage includes an annual maximum, with optional limits of CA $1,500 (£873), CA $3,000 (£1,747), or CA $4,500 (£2,621) per person.
Medical cannabis does not have a Health Canada Drug Identification Number (DIN) and is not eligible for coverage under prescription drug plans. The Co-operators will consider it an eligible expense under all other Extended Heath Care.
The option is now available to members and dependants with chronic pain associated with identified medical conditions, muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It is only available when supplied by a licensed provider and will require prior authorisation similar to high-cost specialty drugs.
Legal access to medical cannabis in controlled in Canada. Medical cannabis was first legalised in the country 17 years ago. With 235,000 medical cannabis patients across the country, insurers are beginning to cover medical marijuana.
Conor Quinn, VP Group Benefits Insurance at the Co-operators said: “Medical cannabis coverage can be added as a separate, optional provision under the Extended Health Care (EHC) plan. It will have an annual maximum and require prior authorisation. Conditions where cannabis has been proven to be effective will be considered for coverage, such as chronic pain associated with certain medical conditions, chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, and muscle spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis. Medical cannabis must be prescribed by a physician and purchased from a licensed provider.
“Government regulations provide access to cannabis for medical purposes under certain conditions. As it is a Canada Revenue Agency allowable medical expense for income tax purposes, we will consider this to be an eligible expense under a Health Care Spending Account (HCSA), provided all necessary Health Canada Guidelines are met, medical cannabis has not been issued a Drug Identification Number (DIN) by Health Canada, therefore is not eligible for coverage under a prescription drug plan. The organisation will continue to monitor research and legislative developments and adapt coverage accordingly.”