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To be eligible for reimbursement, plan members will have to be pre-authorized, noted the release.

Medavie Blue Cross is adding medical cannabis coverage to its benefits provision.

Coverage will be considered for conditions based on Canadian family physician guidelines, including for patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain, refractory pain in palliative cancer care, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and spasticity in multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury.

The extended health-care benefit will be optional, standalone coverage for plan sponsors, providing reimbursement for fresh and dried cannabis, as well as cannabis oil. Plan sponsors will have the option of an annual maximum coverage amount. 

“Cannabis is a complex substance unique in the health benefits landscape,” stated the release. “It is not considered a prescription medication by Health Canada and does not meet typical requirements to be eligible for coverage under a prescription drug plan. Medavie Blue Cross will continue to monitor the latest clinical evidence and emerging trends to assess the new benefit on an ongoing basis.”

“But [I was] living in a personal hell with pain and suffering for years; the medication the doctors prescribed didn’t work and I had poor reactions to it. And they’d say, ‘Well, you’ve got to be on it for longer than a month . . . , you have to be on it for three months, then in the interim you’re physically sick and unwell from side-effects from the drug and I could barely cope some days with my own symptoms. So taking a prescription medication just wasn’t working for me at all.”

Kate Trozzi never expected to have to navigate the complex world of pain management.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2019

Through Blue Cross, Veterans Affairs Canada covers two grams of medical cannabis a day. Trozzi uses about half of this amount, unless she’s having a particularly bad flare up or is recovering from surgery. She finds using it in oil form works best for her since she’s not entirely comfortable with smoking. And she tends toward strains with a high percentage of cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, which is typically associated with easing pain and anxiety, rather than tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.

“If a doctor and patient have engaged in a relationship whereby medical cannabis seems to be appropriate for their care, that’s a pretty important consideration for us. While there are other things that people could potentially take, if this is considered to be important to their care, it’s important that we honour that choice and remove barriers for our employees to access it.”

Jeremy Smith

Smith has seen a psychiatrist almost monthly for over a decade for anxiety and depression. During one session, he discussed his recreational cannabis use. The psychiatrist suggested that, instead of using a recreational supply for relaxation, he could write a prescription and fold it into his other treatments.