Insurer Directed To Cover Medical Marijuana

Health insurance - cannabis medicines
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Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission has directed that a Canadian man’s medicinal cannabis costs must be covered by his insurer.

The man, Gordon (Wayne) Skinner, argued that he faced discrimination in accessing the insurance coverage based on his disability; which was the result of a work-related car accident some years ago.

Mr. Skinner had been using medical marijuana for pain relief since 2012, but prior to that had been prescribed conventional pain management drugs.

He testified that the dosage level of these conventional medications needed to be so high, it led to a variety of physical problems. Mr. Skinner said the medicines also made him irritable and angry, leading to relationship issues.

After switching to prescribed cannabis, his condition improved.

Initially, the cannabis was covered by his employer’s motor vehicle insurer, but once the maximum level of support was reached; he approached his industry welfare trust in order to continue the coverage. His request was denied.

As a result of the denial of coverage, Mr. Skinner’s chronic pain went under-managed and he subsequently sought the assistance of the Commission.

Independent human rights board of inquiry chair, Benjamin Perryman, said that since medical marijuana requires a prescription by law, it did not fall within the insurance plan’s exclusions – and as conventional prescription pain management medications are usually eligible, so should prescribed cannabis.

Mr. Perryman stated the contents of the plan in question supported a strong argument for medical marijuana as an eligible expense.

Mr. Skinner’s medical marijuana expenses must now be covered by the plan, including the cost of his most recent prescription.

Jonathan Zaid, Founder and Executive Director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM), said the decision will give other Canadian patients more evidence in their battle for coverage.

The (lengthy) full decision can be viewed in full here (PDF).

Over the border in the USA, there was another recent case where an insurance company has been forced to pay for medical marijuana treatment. In January, a New Jersey administrative law judge ordered an insurance company to pay for medical cannabis for a lumber company employee who was injured at work.

Coverage of cannabis medicines varies greatly from country to country. For example, recent legislation passed in Germany recognising cannabis as medicine also includes that it be claimable under health insurance.

In Israel, patients are able to receive reimbursement for medicinal cannabis from most health insurance providers.