Worried about Weed?
Medical cannabis (or marijuana) has been legal in Canada since 1999.
As the number of Canadians with medical marijuana prescriptions continues to grow, pressure is mounting for benefits programs to cover medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana is not an approved drug under the Food and Drug Act (No DIN), which makes it difficult for insurers to process claims. Some licensed marijuana producers are laying the groundwork for employers to cover their products by assigning them Product Identification Numbers instead.
CRA took steps to simplify marijuana coverage in 2015 when they added medical cannabis to the list of medically exempt tax credits, which means it is payable through employer-provided healthcare spending accounts.
There are a few companies (plan-sponsors) who are starting to cover medical marijuana. They have a self-insured medical plan.
As there is strong medical evidence that medical marijuana is effective for three specific conditions: spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, nausea reduction for chemotherapy patient’s, relief of chronic pain.
Employers have expressed concerns about how to manage the consumption of medical marijuana in the workplace and the potential impact on employee performance. Special concern in jobs involve using large equipment or machinery.
What should you as an employer do?
Educate yourself so you are prepared to answer questions from employees on medical cannabis coverage, regardless of whether your organization decides to cover medical marijuana costs.
Medical cannabis can be claimed via an employee’s Health Care Spending Account (HCSA).
A number of insurers on large Administrative Services Only (ASO) accounts are open to discussing adding medical cannabis to the benefit program.
LOBLAWS COVERS MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR EMPLOYEES!
At first glance, the news seems ground breaking and hints at a possible future trend in employee health benefits.
Some industry leasders were surprised to see that Canadian retail giant Loblaw Companies had started covering medical marijuana for 45,000 employees through their health benefit plans.
After taking a closer look at the limitations of Loblaw’s coverage, their astonishment diminished somewhat. The company is only covering medical marijuana used to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, as well as the side-effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients, and only up to $1,500 per year.
Still, Loblaw is now the first large Canadian employer to cover medical marijuana under a benefits plan.
But there’s another aspect to consider; Loblaws ,under their Shopper’s Drug Mart division, has applied to Health Canada for the license to sell legal marijuana. So is their grand gesture done out of concern for their employees or a strategic move to gain market share in the selling of medical marijuana?