The Impact of Medicinal Cannabis on Your Benefits


GroupHEALTH Benefit Solutions® has experienced an increase in organizations asking about medicinal cannabis coverage, especially with legalization raising interest with many Canadians. With medicinal cannabis becoming more commonly accepted in the country, employers want to know how adding this coverage will affect their business.

Medicinal Cannabis Coverage – What’s Included? 

A New Treatment Option

Adding this coverage to employee benefits plans is still a relatively uncharted concept, and there is limited information available regarding how it might affect your cost of doing business. A new drug option can feel challenging, especially one with the legal and social history of cannabis. It is important to focus on seeing medicinal cannabis as a treatment option, comparable to prescription drugs.

The recently legalized recreational cannabis shouldn’t be confused with medicinal cannabis treatment, which has been around for close to 20 years. It is a medical treatment that is prescribed by a doctor; the form in which it is utilized and its effects on the body are different from that of recreational cannabis.

There are safeguards in place to ensure that a company’s benefits plan is not covering recreational cannabis for employees. This includes requiring employees to have medical documentation from their doctor, that the prescription is dispensed by a licensed supplier, and that the employee must use it for designated conditions.

Comparing Treatments

Most employers are going to focus on the cost of the coverage. Comparing it to other treatments helps to put it in context. Prescription drugs can be extremely costly; medicinal cannabis as an alternate treatment may be less expensive. Commonly, it is prescribed as an alternative to opioids, and there are many positives attached to reducing the number of prescribed opioids, one of which is lower costs.

As more research is done into the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis, there will be a better understanding of how it compares to other prescription drugs on a more comprehensive level, providing a better handle on the prevalence of usage, effective dosage and ultimately, cost.

Better Advice = Better Benefits

Employee benefit plans constitute a considerable part of overall compensation and have become a key retention tool with unemployment levels being low in Canada, and thus have a significant cost associated with them.

Business owners considering this coverage should speak to your insurance broker or advisor. These licensed advisors can help you understand the financial impact and provide information that will help you to make an informed decision on whether medicinal cannabis coverage is right for your employees and your company.

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