Jul 6, 2017 12:20 PM

Cannabis to Appear in Employee Benefit Plans in Canada

Canadian companies are looking into including weed in their employee benefit plans. The insurance industry is currently hesitant about covering medical marijuana. However, private companies with their own benefit plans favor the notion.

Mike Sullivan, president of Cubic Health—an organization dealing with benefit plan management and analytics—said that his recent meeting in Toronto with private companies was all about medical cannabis. These were large firms with health plans that cover about three million Canadian employees across a variety of industries. Moreover, at their meeting, there was no negativity concerning the issue. The matter was examined thoughtfully and thoroughly.

While insurance companies cannot price the risk of medical cannabis, medium- and large-sized organizations are ready to face the issue. Most often, they provide their employees with a so-called “administrative services only” plan, which means that the insurance companies only administer the programs, and the employers cover all costs themselves. That is why these businesses can choose what their plans will cover.

The rising popularity of medical marijuana led to the unavoidable question whether it can become a benefit.

While employees want to include medical cannabis in their insurance plans for their own reasons, the companies can see how they can benefit themselves. The real question for employers is whether their workers would get back to work sooner if the health plans covered medical marijuana.

Among all those numerous mutual advantages, there are also rising questions. One of them is giving workers the freedom to consume marijuana. However, employees are mistaken if they think that their new plans will provide them with blanket approvals for using the drug. They will compensate only medically approved prescriptions, and coverage will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

5 Employer's Concerns Over Cannabis Use at Work
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The issue of cannabis use in the workplace has increased in importance after six more states legalized marijuana last November. Despite the obvious benefits of marijuana legally improving the health of a greater amount of people, employers are raising concerns over the possible negative impact of weed use on workplace safety and productivity. There is a list of the major issues employers have with marijuana use in the workplace.

Some employees already have plans that cover medical marijuana. Executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, Jonathan Zaid, works for the University of Waterloo that provides the mentioned benefit. The man convinced the student union to include the benefit in their plan in 2014.

There are other companies that cover medical cannabis in certain circumstances. A union in Windsor, Ont., LIUNA Local 625, covers medical marijuana to reduce to use of opioids.

Veteran Affairs Canada is also providing the benefit for military veterans.

Some other companies cover medical marijuana only for patients with specific ailments thus leaving out a large group of people with other conditions.

People are already reporting that due to cannabinoid treatment, their life has improved, they are glad to return to work, and their symptoms are more manageable.

Unfortunately, today, it is difficult for insurance companies to process such claims as Health Canada has not assigned a Drug Identification Number to cannabis. However, licensed marijuana producers came to the decision to assign their goods Product Identification Numbers to make the process as easy as possible. Many insurance plan administrators like Wawanesa, Great West Life, and Sun Life are covering the costs. The producers already see the changing of attitudes towards medical marijuana, though there is still some hesitance to be the first out of the gate. At the same time, no one wants to be the last either.

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