Medical cannabis can now be included in your employee benefits plan

May 31 2018, 9:32 pm

Medical cannabis is gaining popularity, and some insurance companies are catching on.

Daily Hive spoke on the phone with Cristina dos Santos, Sun Life’s director of extended healthcare and product development, about the company’s decision to offer coverage of medical cannabis.

Eligible conditions

Sun Life is the first Canadian insurance company to cover medical cannabis under an extended health care benefits plan, which came into effect March 1, 2018. Employers can opt for annual coverage ranging from $1,500 to $6,000.

There are only five conditions and symptoms that are eligible at this time, but dos Santos said that “this is an evolving landscape; as a result we expect that list of eligible conditions will evolve as clinical research continues to prove therapeutic benefits.”

Conditions currently eligible for coverage include:

  1. Cancer with severe or refractory pain or with nausea and/vomiting associated with cancer treatments.
  2. Multiple sclerosis with neuropathic pain or spasticity.
  3. Rheumatoid arthritis with pain which fails to respond to standard therapy.
  4. HIV/AIDS with anorexia or with neuropathic pain.
  5. Patients requiring palliative care.
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Progressive benefits

Dos Santos said Sun Life’s motivation to offer medical cannabis coverage was twofold.

Medical cannabis was previously covered under the health spending account, but increasing requests for more formal coverage initiated the shift.

Requests from Sun Life’s clients, Canadian employers, coupled with “substantial clinical research and our review around it supporting medical cannabis having therapeutic benefits to support certain severe and serious medical conditions,” led to the formation of a specified coverage.

While dos Santos could not speak to the exact volume of companies that have included this coverage in their employee benefits plans, she did say “the response has been progressive, which was our expectation.”

When asked how medicinal cannabis coverage might conflict with employee drug testing, dos Santos said, “our recommendation is that Canadian employers review and if necessary revise their code of conduct and substance abuse policy.”


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