partnered with Zenabis to introduce the No Max Medicinal
Cannabis Program, which allows employers to offer coverage to
their employees with no yearly maximums and no predetermined
conditions. Valid medical documentation is required from the
employee for both of the above coverage options.
Another option to consider for benefits plans with canna-bis
coverage is the inclusion of a health spending account. Since
medicinal cannabis qualifies as a medical expense under the
Canada Revenue Agency guidelines, individuals are eligible to
expense their medicinal cannabis (with valid medical documen-tation)
to their health spending account – as long as they acquire
their medicinal cannabis supply in accordance with the Access to
Cannabis for Medical Purpose Regulation. This means that indi-viduals
need to register with an authorized medicinal cannabis
supplier to fill their requirements.
HOW WILL ADDING MEDICINAL CANNABIS
COVERAGE AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS?
Adding medicinal cannabis coverage to employee benefits plans is
still a relatively uncharted concept and there is limited information
available regarding how it might affect the cost of doing business.
A new drug option can feel challenging, especially one with the
legal and social history of cannabis. It is important to focus on
seeing medicinal cannabis as a treatment option, comparable to
The recently legalized recreational cannabis shouldn’t be con-fused
with medicinal cannabis treatment, which has been around
for close to 20 years. Medicinal cannabis is a medical treatment
that is prescribed by a doctor; the form in which it is utilized
and its effects on the body are different from that of recre-ational
cannabis. There are safeguards in place to ensure that a
company’s benefits plan is not covering recreational cannabis
for employees. This includes requiring employees to have med-ical
documentation from their doctor, that the prescription is
dispensed by a licensed supplier and that the employee must use it
for designated conditions.
Most employers are going to focus on the cost of the cover-age.
Comparing it to other treatments helps to put it in context.
Prescription drugs can be extremely costly; medicinal cannabis as
an alternate treatment may be less expensive. Commonly, medic-inal
cannabis is prescribed as an alternative to opioids, and there
are many positives attached to reducing the number of prescribed
opioids, one of which is lower costs. As more research is done
into the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis, there will be a better
understanding of how it compares to other prescription drugs on
a more comprehensive level, providing a better handle on the prev-alence
of usage, effective dosage and ultimately, cost.
For business owners considering this coverage, it is recom-mended
to speak with their insurance broker or advisor. Employee
benefit plans constitute a considerable part of overall compensa-tion
and have become a key retention tool with low unemployment
levels in Canada, and thus, have a significant cost associated with
them. Licensed advisors can help decision makers understand the
financial impact and provide information that will help them to
make an informed decision on whether medicinal cannabis cover-age
is right for their employees and company.
The insurance industry trend of increased medicinal canna-bis
coverage options, along with the growing interest in the area
by many Canadians, means that the expectation is that more
and more businesses will begin to incorporate medicinal canna-bis
coverage into their employee benefits plans. It is important for
company owners and managers to fully understand the benefits,
costs and potential risks that come with this type of coverage. Your
insurance broker or advisor can guide you so that you will have a
full understanding of the options as you decide what is right for
your company. n
Matt Houghton is the CEO of GroupHEALTH Benefit Solutions®.
valery_potapova / 123RF
PROVIDERS WILL ONLY
CANNABIS AS A
IF IT IS USED TO
HELP WITH SPECIFIC,
HRPROFESSIONALNOW.CA ❚ NOVEMBER 2018 ❚ 59