Medical Marijuana and Private Health Insurance

In Canada, insurance companies recently started covering medical marijuana in their health insurance plans. Grocery chain Loblaw last year became the first major Canadian company to ask its insurers to cover medical marijuana.

Due to the potentially high costs of covering medical cannabis and thin clinical evidence for its efficacy, the coverage extends only to a handful of health conditions. For many years, making purchases of cannabis for scientific research has been illegal or difficult because most countries ban its use. Today, the Canadian government finances medical research, including efforts to create cannabis-based pharmaceutical-like drugs.

Also, the insurance industry is concerned about the fact that many doctors who commonly prescribe pot don’t properly examine or follow their patients. On the other hand, some doctors are reluctant to prescribe cannabis to patients, in part because it has not yet undergone the studies and clinical trials required for prescription medication. Health Canada has published information for healthcare professionals on its website to make sure they have access to the best information available [1].

There were more than 235,000 registered medical marijuana patients across Canada as of the end of September 2017 — the most recent date for which data is available [2].

Insurance coverage for medical cannabis

Manulife (with Shoppers Drug Mart) has been Canada’s first insurance company that included medical marijuana coverage. The program is available as an option for participating group and individual health insurance plans.

Sun Life Financial is adding medical marijuana coverage to group benefits plans. The coverage will be added as an extended health-care benefit at the request of plan sponsors. It will include a yearly maximum, ranging between $1,500 and $6,000, a prior approval process and coverage criteria. [2]

Desjardins adds medical cannabis option to its group insurance coverage. Plan members and their dependents of 21 years of age or older, will be required to obtain a prescription for medical cannabis from an authorized health professional and purchase it from a producer authorized by Health Canada. The option is available to regular plan sponsors who will be able to choose an annual maximum between $ 1,500 and $ 6,000.

Diseases that are covered

Medical marijuana coverage will include expenses related to the treatment of illnesses and the relief of a number of symptoms, namely, pain related to advanced cancer, refractory neuralgia, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis or a lesion of the spinal cord. There is a possibility of adding other diseases and symptoms covered in the future.

Expenses for Medical Cannabis and Income Tax

The cost of medical cannabis may also be claimed as a medical expense when you file your income taxes. Veterans may have coverage through Veterans Affairs Canada. On September 5, the Canada Revenue Agency confirmed that, under certain circumstances, cannabis can be considered an eligible medical expense under the Income Tax Act, if it is purchased from Health Canada or a licensed producer.


Manulife launches Canada’s first medical marijuana program with Shoppers Drug Mart

Why Canadian insurers are wary of covering medical marijuana

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