Could cannabis be coming to your employer-sponsored healthcare plan? If you live in Canada, the answer may very well be yes. Employers and labor unions all across Canada are looking at adding medical cannabis to the list of covered medications to their plans, and activists are leading the way, citing research that shows how beneficial cannabis can be in a variety of health issues.
Businesses also love this because it is cheaper than pharmaceuticals.
A Canadian benefits industry insider has told media outlets that medial cannabis coverage is a very hot topic amongst those in the insurance industry as well as private industry clients. Insurance companies have historically been resistant to covering medical cannabis, but have begun to approach it, as demand for it continues to rise. Insurance companies face some challenges in terms of pricing: the variety of products, the personalized nature of dosing, the lack of an assigned drug identification number, and potential indications/side effects are just some of the hills that the insurance companies will need to overcome in order to meet the demand for coverage.
The demand for coverage from employers is real, and it’s growing. Most of the demand has come from medium and large-sized employers. Although Canada has a national healthcare plan, these companies typically use insurance companies to administer their employee health insurance plans while paying for the costs of that coverage themselves. This is known as an “administrative services” only plan, because the actual corporation is paying for all of the coverage costs; the insurance company is merely the middle man providing the administration of the plan. These ‘administrative services’ or self-insured companies pick what their insurance plans cover, and many of them are listening to their employees and are choosing to cover medical cannabis.
Detractors say that offering to cover medical cannabis “opens the door” to tacit approval of covering cannabis, a drug, but supporters say that argument is nonsense, as the door is already open: insurance companies currently cover drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines, drugs that are known to be incredibly addictive. Medical cannabis has been proven to be safe and effective for a variety of health issues, notably chronic pain management. There is strong scientific support of medical cannabis effectiveness for Multiple Sclerosis, alleviation of symptoms from chemotherapy, and management of chronic pain. Companies want to get their workers healthy, and back to work, and many have used cannabis to great success with little to no adverse effects. This is a mutual benefit, or ‘win-win’ for both employers and employees: it gets the employees medical cannabis at an extremely affordable price, and companies have workers with less loss time and better lives. Anecdotal reports from users have reported lessened or elimination of various symptoms, increased satisfaction of their health, and some have even reported stopping other pharmaceutical drugs; which, of course, are all insured.
This is a great advancement in the medical cannabis field if passed. Canada is setting an example for the rest of the world, and maybe we will see these in the U.S. someday.