Experts are predicting that Canadians who have been prescribed medical marijuana could one day see their insurance company footing the bill, following the introduction of new Health Canada rules that allow for the sale of cannabis oils.
Health Canada announced revamped medical marijuana regulations earlier this month after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that users of the drug should be permitted to consume it in other forms, such as oils and edibles, rather than having to smoke dried buds.
The changes are a major step towards legitimizing the drug in the eyes of doctors and insurers. The new regulations will allow medical marijuana producers to sell gel caps similar to those made from cod liver oil, which will allow for more precise dosing.
Medical marijuana producers still have one major hurdle to overcome before insurers begin routinely funding the drug — cannabis currently doesn’t have a drug identification number, known as a DIN.
To obtain a DIN, the new form of medical marijuana would need to go through the full Health Canada approval process like any new drug.
Currently, most insurance companies don’t routinely cover medical marijuana. But some insurers will consider making an exception if the employer has specifically requested it for one of its employees.
Earlier this year, Sun Life agreed to pay for University of Waterloo student Jonathan Zaid’s medical marijuana prescription through his student health plan after the student union advocated for him. He uses medical marijuana to combat a syndrome called new daily persistent headache.
While medical marijuana is not an eligible expense in its standard benefit plans, Sun Life does consider requests for exceptions if directed by the organization or employer responsible for the benefit plan. Insurer Manulife has a similar policy, but is not aware of having made any exception for medical cannabis.
Mr. Zaid, meanwhile, has launched the non-profit Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. It is a patient oriented organization that lobbies for patients rights to access medical marijuana in a fair and safe way, and improve standardization.