Article by Solomon Israel, CBC News
The winds of change are blowing through employee benefit plans across Canada, and they smell like weed.
Benefits industry insider Mike Sullivan caught a whiff at a recent meeting with some of his clients, who represent private companies with benefit plans that cover about three million Canadian workers across a range of industries.
“This group that was in attendance, the No. 1 topic of discussion was medical cannabis,” said Sullivan, who is president of Cubic Health, which provides analytics to employers who sponsor health benefit plans.
“That’s what everybody wanted to talk about — but not in a negative way: there’s a lot of support for looking at this and examining it in a thoughtful, responsible way,” Sullivan told an audience at a cannabis business conference held in Toronto by the Canadian Institute May 25.
The insurance industry itself has been hesitant to cover medical marijuana, according to Sullivan.
“Insurance company actuaries cannot get their head around how to price the risk of medical cannabis,” he said, citing the range of products available, the personalized nature of dosing, and the wide range of potential indications as complicating factors.
But that doesn’t matter to medium- and large-sized Canadian employers, Sullivan said. They generally use insurance companies to administer their employee health benefit plans while paying the costs of coverage themselves, an arrangement known as a self-insured, self-funded or “administrative services only” plan.