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Canada’s healthcare system has long been the envy of the world. Now it is covering patients’ access to cannabis-based medicines. Let’s take a look at their new regime for medical marijuana.

Sun Life has announced that from 1st March 2018, their healthcare plan will cover cannabis prescribed as medicine. Between $1,500-6,000 worth of medical marijuana can be paid for by their plan. That much weed can be covered once it is dispensed according to government regulations. With the legalisation of recreational marijuana on its way to Canada, the private sector feels secure making commitments like these. As more companies follow suit, the stigma around cannabis use as a medicine should fade further. Loblaws Companies Limited, which runs a chain of stores employing around 200,000 people, is also providing coverage for medical marijuana.

PRIVATE SECTOR MOVES FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Canada’s healthcare isn’t just popular with Canadians. Around the world, countries look to Canada as a model for public-option healthcare. Virtually all basic essential care from physicians and hospitals is covered by the taxpayer. Some services are not covered, such as home care, dental plans and prescription drugs. There is however some flexibility in insurance plans you can follow. Around 30% of Canada’s healthcare is financed by private insurance. Sun Life Assurance Co. is one of the largest insurance providers in the world. As one of the most eminent corporations in Canada, it has just announced some huge news for medical marijuana users.

A public option seems some way off although there is an encouraging legal precedent set by the eastern province of Nova Scotia. When mechanic Gordon “Wayne” Skinner was injured on the job, he developed terrible chronic back pain. Medical marijuana was soothing these problems. Skinner had hoped that his union would cover the cost through its trust fund. This however, was turned down three times, leading Skinner to bring his case to a human rights board hearing. The board ruled in his favour that provincial human rights law required the union to reimburse him for his medical marijuana expenses. They found that Skinner had been discriminated against in a “non-direct and unintentional” manner by the anti-marijuana policy. So perhaps throughout Canada, more providers with public obligations shall re-examine their own policies.

There remains a question even if coverage for medical marijuana becomes more commonplace. What sort of stipulations will come with that access? California had a notoriously loose system with a generously broad range of conditions. This facilitated broad access to the broad catalogue of dispensaries. Under current Canadian laws there are about 40 facilities that have a government licence to grow and distribute medical marijuana. They can only provide to prescribed patients and patients can only get coverage if their condition is specified by their insurance.

What is Veterans Affairs Canada? The Canadian government proudly prioritizes the livelihood of its military veterans, and VAC’s policies reflect this. VAC is a public social assistance program that was created to support military veterans in several ways. This dedicated department offers many services from career transition services, financial assistance, disability benefits, and health benefits.

What is the Ontario Disability Support Program? ODSP is a long-term assistance program that provides help for basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter, as well as medications, and vision care for persons who have a disability. ODSP also offers help finding employment.

Does Workplace Safety & Insurance Board cover medical cannabis? Yes. As recently as December 2019, WSIB updated its policy to include medical cannabis for five select conditions. Those conditions are as follows:

What You Need for a Vaporizer:

Does Veterans Affairs Canada cover medical cannabis? Yes. Out of all of the social assistance programs available, VAC provides the most financial assistance for medical cannabis. Veterans Affairs Canada uses a reimbursement structure that pays back veterans for any cannabis purchased from a legally licensed producer.

Who qualifies for the Ontario Drug Benefit program? There are several ways of being eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit program:

Does OHIP cover medical cannabis? Currently, OHIP does not cover medical cannabis prescriptions. But much like Ontario Works and Ontario Drug Benefit program, it does include synthetic cannabis medication.

At the moment, medical cannabis does not enjoy the same coverage as pharmaceutical prescription medication does. This can be attributed to the fact that medical cannabis does not yet have its own drug identification number (DIN number) despite being legalized by Canada for medical use in 2001. However, attitudes are gradually changing as many institutions, such as Veterans Affairs Canada have long recognized medical cannabis as an effective and safe treatment.

Coverage will be considered for conditions based on Canadian family physician guidelines, including for patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain, refractory pain in palliative cancer care, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and spasticity in multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury.

The extended health-care benefit will be optional, standalone coverage for plan sponsors, providing reimbursement for fresh and dried cannabis, as well as cannabis oil. Plan sponsors will have the option of an annual maximum coverage amount. 

To be eligible for reimbursement, plan members will have to be pre-authorized, noted the release.

Medavie Blue Cross is adding medical cannabis coverage to its benefits provision.

“Cannabis is a complex substance unique in the health benefits landscape,” stated the release. “It is not considered a prescription medication by Health Canada and does not meet typical requirements to be eligible for coverage under a prescription drug plan. Medavie Blue Cross will continue to monitor the latest clinical evidence and emerging trends to assess the new benefit on an ongoing basis.”