Cannabis is legal. Is it covered?
Well, as you’ve probably heard, the much-anticipated date of October 17th has come and gone, and recreational marijuana is now legal in Canada! Many of our clients have been asking us, what impact does this have on employee benefits plans?
Traditional Benefits Plans
A few insurance companies in the benefits industry have announced that coverage for Medicinal Marijuana is now available as an add-on option under the extended health care umbrella.Currently there is no DIN (drug identification number), so the expense cannot be submitted as a drug. It would fall under a separate category with it’s own annual maximum. For an additional cost, an employer can choose to add Medicinal Marijuana to their plan and specify a maximum, typically ranging between $1,500 and $6,000/person/year. The availability of this coverage, and the annual maximum options will vary depending on the insurance company that you’re working with. For example, the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan does not currently offer coverage for medicinal marijuana, while Sun Life and Great-West Life have introduced options.
Where it gets confusing for most people, is that just because you have your medicinal card, does not mean that you can claim medicinal marijuana under your group insurance plan. Insurance companies have only approved the use of medical marijuana for treatment of the following 4 conditions:
Chronic neuropathic pain
Refractory Pain in palliative cancer care
Nausea and vomiting due to cancer chemotherapy
Spasticity in multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury
Plan members and their dependents aged 21 or older can qualify for coverage once they receive approval, and they must obtain their medicinal cannabis in accordance with Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
Employers should consider the fact that adding medicinal marijuana to their plans can be costly in terms of premiums and total claims. As with any other potential plan changes, it is best to proceed with caution and know your potential exposure before introducing new plan features.
Cost Plus / Healthcare Spending Accounts
Unlike traditional employee benefits plans, eligible expenses under a Cost Plus or Healthcare Spending Account are governed by a running list managed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA website (see link below) lists medical marijuana as an eligible expense and does not restrict eligibility to those with certain medical conditions. So, presumably, an individual holding a medical cannabis card, who abides by the terms of the ACMPR, could run their cannabis expenses through their Cost Plus or Healthcare Spending Account.
This landscape will be evolving every day, and we here at Norbram are keeping a close nose on any developments and how they will impact you, our clients.