An independent human rights board of inquiry has ruled that Gordon (Wayne) Skinner's medical marijuana expenses are to be covered by his employee insurance plan.
Mr. Skinner, of Head of Chezzetcook, Halifax Regional Municipality, argued that he faced discrimination in accessing insurance coverage based on his disability.
Benjamin Perryman, the board chair, issued his decision on Jan. 30.
Mr. Skinner suffers from chronic pain following a motor vehicle accident when he was an elevator mechanic with ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada. He has been unable to work and medical marijuana had helped his condition over conventional treatment for pain relief.
The respondents in the case, the board of trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund, had denied Mr. Skinner's coverage in May 2014.
"This landmark human rights commission decision highlights the discrimination patients face when denied coverage for medical cannabis. Although the decision may not extend to all patients or plans, it has the potential to broaden the feasibility of medical cannabis coverage. Armed with this decision, patients will now have more evidence to help advocate for coverage." - Jonathan Zaid, CFAMM
The Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan provides health and related benefits for employees and former employees like Mr. Skinner, working in the unionized sector of the elevator industry.
Mr. Perryman concluded that the plan includes conditions and rules for the coverage of medical marijuana as an eligible expense. For example, since medical marijuana requires a prescription by law, it did not fall within the plan's exclusions. Since medical marijuana was prescribed for pain management, it was accepted that it is a medical necessity and should be covered. Conventional prescription pain management drugs are normally eligible for coverage.
Mr. Skinner's medical marijuana expenses must now be covered by the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan up to and including the full amount of his most recent prescription.
The reimbursement will only be required where medical marijuana was purchased from a producer licensed by Health Canada or a person legally authorized to produce for Mr. Skinner under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. The claim must also be supported by an official receipt.
Insurance coverage for medical cannabis is a major issue in Canada. While provincial plans normally cover the cost of medication, because medical cannabis is still not an approved drug in Canada, most insurance providers don't cover its cost.
Jonathan Zaid, the Founder and Executive Director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana was able to secure coverage for himself in 2015 under his plan with Sun Life, says this is a positive step for medical patients.
"This landmark human rights commission decision highlights the discrimination patients face when denied coverage for medical cannabis. Although the decision may not extend to all patients or plans, it has the potential to broaden the feasibility of medical cannabis coverage. Armed with this decision, patients will now have more evidence to help advocate for coverage."
To read the full decision, please visit: http://humanrights.novascotia.ca