Canadian LP Joins a Patient’s Fight for Medical Insurance Coverage

The fight for insurance companies in Canada to cover medical marijuana continues with the help of a pot industry giant.

Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis has agreed to bankroll a legal battle in Nova Scotia. This confrontation is in support of a man who won the right to have his cannabis prescription coverage included in his insurance policy, but the insurer has appealed the human rights board’s decision.

Elevator mechanic Gordon Skinner suffers from chronic pain after an on-the-job motor vehicle accident. Back in February of this year, Mr. Skinner successfully argued his case after being denied coverage for his marijuana medicine three times.

Mr. Skinner won because the inquiry board concluded that as medical marijuana requires a prescription by law, it doesn’t fall within the exclusions of Skinner’s insurance — the company was required to cover the costs.

The trustees of the insurance plan appealed the ruling, and Mr. Skinner has been forced, once again, to defend his position. That’s where Aurora Cannabis has stepped in.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Executive Vice President for Aurora, Cam Battley, said that “patients have access to insurance reimbursement for a very broad range of prescription medicines.”

The exec added that insurance coverage is currently provided for opioid-based medicine so it should also be for cannabis. Battley also drew attention to Canada’s current opioid crisis and said that medical cannabis is an alternative to those addictive medications.

Aurora Cannabis has agreed to cover the cost of Mr. Skinner’s defense, in the hopes that his case will set a precedent for other insurance claims for cannabis moving forward.

Although the battle continues with this particular workplace insurance provider, other large Canadian employers have taken a different stance.

Earlier this year, the parent company of Canada’s biggest pharmacy chain and food distributor, Loblaw Companies Ltd, informed its 45,000 employees that medical marijuana for some conditions will be covered under the company’s health insurance policy.

For the case of Mr. Skinner, it’s uncertain whether or not he understands the significance of his fight as it relates to all Canadians. But clearly, his benefactors at Aurora fully comprehend what is at stake, which is why they have agreed to get involved.

This one ruling, if successfully upheld, could pave the way for cannabis insurance coverage across the board. It would mean that marijuana reform would take a further step towards legitimacy in a country that declared pot a medicine nearly 18 years ago.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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