Employee plan must cover pot prescription, rules human rights board

by Leo Almazora06 Feb 2017
In what could turn out to be a landmark decision, a Nova Scotia human rights board has ruled that a local man’s medical marijuana prescription should be covered by his employee insurance plan.

Gordon “Wayne” Skinner has been suffering from chronic pain since an on-the-job motor vehicle accident in 2010, according to CBC News. He applied for his marijuana prescription to be covered under his employee insurance plan but was denied three times. He called the denials an act of discrimination as he argued his own case in October.

Inquiry board chair Benjamin Perryman ruled in favor of Skinner, concluding that since medical marijuana requires a prescription by law, it cannot be excluded under the insurance plan. Determining that the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan violated the province’s Human Rights Act, Perryman said that it must cover his medical pot expenses “up to and including the full amount of his most recent prescription.”

Deepak Anand, executive director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association, said the ruling could set a trend for more applications for coverage via provincial human rights commissions. “If [people] could start to use this avenue to try to get their employers or insurance providers to start covering it, I think that's going to be significant and we are going to see more of that,” he said.

Also significant, according to Anand, is the board’s reasoning that Skinner’s medical marijuana prescription constitutes “prima facie support for its medical necessity.”

“They [the inquiry board] are finally recognizing that prescription has some value, which so far the Canadian Medical Association and others have decided not to look at,” he said.

Finding that Skinner’s chronic pain had been under-managed due to the denial of coverage, Perryman said that the plan’s justification was inadequate. “There was no evidence presented to suggest that premiums would have to be increased or that the financial viability of the plan would be threatened,” he wrote.

Skinner hopes that his case will set a precedent for others: “Hopefully this will help other people in similar situations and eliminate the fight that myself and my family have had to endure and the hardship that this has resulted in,” he said.

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Canadian campus council exploring options for cannabis coverage