Insurance Business Drug store, supermarket chain offer medical marijuana coverage to employees

Drug store, supermarket chain offer medical marijuana coverage to employees About 45,000 employees of Shoppers Drug Mart and parent company Loblaws will have medical marijuana coverage as part of their work benefits, reports said.

An internal memo released last week said this will cover a maximum of $1,500 a year. Claims to insurance provider Manulife “will be considered only for prescriptions to treat spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients,” said Basil Rowe, Loblaw senior vice-president of human resources, in the memo as reported by The Star.

Last February, a human rights board ruled that a Nova Scotia man’s cannabis treatments must be covered by his employee insurance plan.

The man, Gordon “Wayne” Skinner, of Head of Chezzetcook, was prescribed marijuana to treat the chronic pain he suffers from an on-the-job motor vehicle accident. Skinner claimed that he faced discrimination when he was denied coverage.

Want the latest insurance industry news first? Sign up for our completely free newsletter service now.

Inquiry board chair Benjamin Perryman concluded that since medical cannabis requires a prescription by law, Skinner’s policy should not have the treatment within its exclusions. Perryman ruled that the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan breached the province’s Human Rights Act and must cover Skinner’s cannabis treatment expenses “up to and including the full amount of his most recent prescription.”

“More clinical evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for some conditions has emerged,” said Loblaw spokesperson Tammy Smitham in an email to Global News.

“We regularly review our benefit plans to ensure they continue to meet the needs of our employees while also adapting to changes in the area of drug therapies.”

Marijuana is currently legal only for medical purposes, subject to provisions in the “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.” The drug is not an approved therapeutic product, according to Health Canada.  The government plans to fully legalize the drug in July 2018 with the legislation expected to be announced this week.

Related stories:
Employee insurer must cover for man’s medical marijuana: Human rights board
ECS Safety Services calls for pot policy ahead of legalization