Could medical marijuana be your next employee health benefit?


The become aware ofs of change are blowing through employee benefit plans across Canada, and they aroma like weed.

Benefits industry insider Mike Sullivan tricked a whiff at a recent meeting with some of his clients, who represent sequestered companies with benefit plans that cover about three million Canadian women across a range of industries.

“This group that was in attendance, the No. 1 theme of discussion was medical cannabis,” said Sullivan, who is president of Cubic Healthfulness, which provides analytics to employers who sponsor health benefit systems.

“That’s what everybody wanted to talk about — but not in a negative way: there’s a lot of truss for looking at this and examining it in a thoughtful, responsible way,” Sullivan told an audience at a cannabis issue conference held in Toronto by the Canadian Institute May 25.

The insurance industry itself has been indefinite to cover medical marijuana, according to Sullivan.

“Insurance company actuaries cannot get their fever pitch around how to price the risk of medical cannabis,” he said, citing the series of products available, the personalized nature of dosing, and the wide range of implicit indications as complicating factors.

But that doesn’t matter to medium- and large-sized Canadian gaffers, Sullivan said. They generally use insurance companies to administer their worker health benefit plans while paying the costs of coverage themselves, an terms known as a self-insured, self-funded or “administrative services only” plan.

Self-insured firms get to choose what their benefit plans cover — and apparently, some of their employees want them to cover medical marijuana.

“Employers are hearing it from their staff members,” said Joan Weir, director of health and disability policy with the Canadian Pep and Health Insurance Association. “Will it ever be a benefit?”

‘Mutual forward’ to employers, employees

Those employers, said benefits expert Mike Sullivan, are hope the answer to a question: “Can they do a better job of getting people back to come out all right sooner, and staying at work,” by covering medical marijuana?

Of course, give out for employees’ medical marijuana raises a host of complex questions, specially in safety-sensitive industries like resource extraction or construction. But workers in those manufactures are already using employer-covered drugs, said Sullivan, especially opiates and benzodiazepines.

“I about it’s a very naive argument for employers to say, ‘Well, we don’t want to open up the door here,'” he imagined. “The door is already open.”

As self-insured health benefit plans start protection medical marijuana, employees shouldn’t expect blanket approvals for the upper. Coverage will have to be approved on a case-by-case basis, said Sullivan.

Jonathan Zaid

Jonathan Zaid, boss director of Canadian For Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, convinced the University of Waterloo admirer union to cover his medical cannabis under its health benefit outline in December 2014. (CBC)

Covering medical marijuana brings “mutual gain” for patients and their employers, according to Jonathan Zaid, executive captain of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

“We hear wide-ranging anecdotal look inti that are extremely positive from patients, saying that they’re prevailing back to work, they’re having better family and social survives, they’re happier, their symptoms are more manageable, and they’re much going off of other pharmaceutical drugs which are all insured,” Zaid bring to light.

Some plans already cover marijuana

Zaid himself has been hided for medical cannabis by the University of Waterloo student union’s health benefit intend since December 2014. He said it took eight months of conversations to reach an agreement with his plan sponsor.

A small number of other self-insured Canadian form benefit plans already cover medical marijuana in certain circumstances.

Windsor, Ont.. fusion LIUNA Local 625 recently started covering medical marijuana as a way to subdue opioid use among members. Earlier this year, a Nova Scotia humanitarian rights board said the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Upon Plan had to cover medical marijuana expenses for employee Gordon “Wayne” Skinner, although that down’s board of trustees is appealing the decision.

Veterans Affairs Canada also reimburses a become large number of military veterans for medical cannabis.

From the perspective of forward plan sponsors, there’s strong medical evidence that medical marijuana is actual for three specific conditions, according to Cubic health’s Mike Sullivan: spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, nausea reduction for chemotherapy patients, and easement of chronic pain.

Loblaw medical marijuana

Loblaw Companies is covering medical marijuana for hands through their health benefit plans, but only in a limited million of cases. (Mark Blinch/Reuters, Ron Ward/Canadian Press)

Grocery and dispensary giant Loblaw Companies started covering medical marijuana for for workers in late March — but Sullivan noted that Loblaw is only concealment MS and chemotherapy patients, leaving out the potentially large population of chronic trial patients who could benefit from coverage.

“It’s curious to me that they cherry-picked the two heaps that are going to be very, very, very small in number, and that they proper said [the annual coverage limit] is going to be $1,500,” Sullivan castigated CBC News. “Where did that number come from?”

Licensed marijuana in britain directors lay groundwork

Marijuana has not been assigned a Drug Identification Number from Trim Canada, which makes it difficult for insurers to process claims. But some permitted marijuana producers are are laying the groundwork for employers to cover their products by assigning them Output Identification Numbers instead.

“We want to make it as easy as possible” for indemnification administrators to cover costs, said Philippe Lucas, vice president of case research and access at licensed producer Tilray.

Lucas said some Tilray clients are already getting their costs covered by major insurance design administrators like Great West Life, Sun Life and Wawanesa by way of hands’ individual healthcare spending accounts, which allow discretionary put in of an annual amount of money on approved medical expenses.

Tilray is also actively lobbying staff member benefit plan sponsors to include cannabis in their coverage, he thought.

Meanwhile, Lucas sees changing attitudes towards medical marijuana bulk insurance industry players.

“I think that there’s a hesitance by some labour members of being the first out of the gate to offer medical cannabis, but there’s a colossal fear of being the last out of the gate to offer this coverage,” he contemplated.

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