More Insurance Providers Need to Include Medical Cannabis in Their Coverage

Even as legalization approaches, most insurance plans don’t recognize the medicinal benefits of marijuana

The KSA Student Benefit Plan office located in the Grassroots cafe on the Surrey campus. (Braden Klassen)

Medicinal marijuana is used to treat a wide range of ailments and diseases ranging from cancer to chronic headaches, Crohn’s disease, or seizure disorders. It’s regularly prescribed by physicians, meaning that it’s a recognized prescription and legitimate drug. So why shouldn’t it be included in our health care plans?

The University of British Columbia Students Union for the Okanagan campus recently approved a pilot program that will include covering medicinal cannabis in the student health plan and assess the overall costs involved in providing coverage for the drug.

In an interview with the CBC, the chair of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy Okanagan, Michelle Thiessen, explained that the UBCO student association set $20,000 aside for the year-long program to run its course, and that the data collected during this trial period would be used to improve the program in the future.

Of course, this money isn’t for people to submit “receipts” from their dealer to cover the cost of their recreational habits. Only those who are already registered through health Canada as having a legitimate need for medicinal marijuana will be eligible. There are individuals who can and do benefit from the use of medicinal marijuana, but it is of course important that policies are in place to prevent people from taking advantage of the system.

Prescribed marijuana may not be the right choice for everyone, but in some cases, when other remedies and prescriptions just won’t cut it, cannabis may be a suitable alternative.

So which ailments can medical marijuana help with? While more research on the subject is needed, some research suggests that cannabis could be used to treat other substance abuse issues and PTSD.

One popular use for medicinal cannabis is to relieve nausea and vomiting in patients being treated with chemotherapy. Other symptoms cancer patients may face include chronic pain and loss of appetite, which are also maladies that medicinal cannabis is often prescribed for.

The list of medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can help alleviate is pretty lengthy, and as more research is put into learning and understanding the medicinal properties of the plant, it will only continue to grow.

According to Health Canada, “legal access to dried marijuana for medical purposes was first provided in 1999.” Frankly, it seems absurd that nearly 20 years ago it was decided that patients were allowed to legally possess marijuana for medicinal purposes, but patients being prescribed this treatment by medical professionals today are left to foot the bill.

The KSA’s student benefit plan doesn’t currently cover this type of prescription coverage, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lobby on behalf of a student needing this type of support in the near future. As more companies opt to cover the cost of medical marijuana in their plans, I’m sure student associations across the nation will see that included in their coverage as well. There’s simply no reason why something being prescribed by medical professionals shouldn’t be included in our health care plans.

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