Ready or not the legalization of Marijuana in Canada will have a resounding impact to the insurance industry although the specifics are still a little foggy.
Everything from liability, accident, property insurance and employee benefits will be affected. The fast impending legalization and broad spectrum of this topic has ignited debate and many great conversations with our clients and so we figured it’s time to share some of our insight.
Considerations for medical marijuana in benefit plans - the broad picture
- What impact will the decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana have on accessibility and use of medical marijuana? The past taboo of marijuana use may now disappear with the new legalization but will this equate to more patients seeking to use marijuana as a prescribed medical treatment or is there potential for diversion of medical users to recreational use?
- Current research for the use of medical marijuana is limited, as is the long-term psychoactive and neurocognitive impacts. Legalization may inspire new studies, broadening the scope of research for other conditions and treatments with medical marijuana.
- Projections based on the current cost of medical marijuana show that it will be a high-cost benefit in group plans. Current cost is approximately $8-$12/gr. If a claimant uses only 2 grams a day, the cost for that plan member’s medical marijuana benefit alone would result in $5840-$8760 annually.
Medical Marijuana and HSAs
Medical marijuana coverage is available today through health care spending accounts (HSAs). A patient obtains access to medical marijuana through a physician's prescription. The physician must complete a form which details the strain of marijuana plant required, the period of use and quantity the patient is authorized to use. The product is then mailed directly to the patient by a licensed producer. As the product becomes more accessible after the upcoming legalization the reimbursements of medical marijuana claims will still be based upon these requirements with the only change being options of how the product is delivered to the patient.
Medical Marijuana and Group Insurance
Employee group insurance plans may have access to medical marijuana (please refer to your specific policy booklet for details as every group is different) or this may be an option to consider in the near future or at your next policy renewal. Coverage may be limited to specific medical conditions, claimants will need to follow an authorization process for reimbursement, and a benefit maximum would be assigned.
Recreational Marijuana use and Life Insurance, Disability and Critical Illness
All alcohol and drug use (legal and otherwise) must be disclosed at the time of applying for any of the above policies. The underwriter will consider amounts consumed and method of consumption. Individual health history, paramedical information and lab findings will result in approval at standard or amended rates, postponement of coverage or possible decline.
In many cases disclosed marijuana use results in smoker rates for the above noted policies (again this is dependent on individual underwriting) however with the legalization of marijuana new parameters must be defined as more marijuana products become available. If for example it is disclosed that an applicant for insurance consumes marijuana only in the form of edible products recreationally on rare occasion. Would they be considered a non-smoker and what is the limit of acceptable recreational use? This is yet to be clarified by insurers and will likely differ with each one.
There are still many details to be rolled out! Stay tuned for more details to come.