Updated: December 10, 2021: added information on Medavie Blue Cross coverage for medical cannabis.
In Canada, depending on the province, you are eligible to purchase cannabis if you are over the age of 18, 19 or 21, and can either buy cannabis recreationally through a government store or through a certified Canadian cannabis dispensary with a medical document from a health practitioner.
If you go the medical cannabis route, there is a whole bunch of benefits (you can read more about that here), and depending on your health insurance coverage, you may be able to claim a portion of your medical cannabis purchase. This is above and beyond the health expense claim you can make when you file your taxes.
In this article we look at the top the health insurance companies in Canada and lay out where they currently stand on medical cannabis coverage. If you don’t see your insurance company on the list, maybe just try googling the name of your health insurance company + cannabis. We will update and add to this list as medical coverage policies for medical cannabis evolve and more health insurance companies get on board.
With any of the information below, it almost goes without saying that you should double-check with your health insurance company to clarify their coverage of medical cannabis before making a claim.
Here is a look at the top health insurance companies in Canada and what they say about claiming your medical cannabis prescription:
Sun Life Financial
Sun Life has a great page explaining their health insurance coverage of medical cannabis in Canada. In fact, they have an entire PDF guide with all sorts of great information on the topic. In early 2018, Sun Life became the first major health insurer to cover medical cannabis. Check with your Sun Life representative or your employer to see if your health plan covers medical cannabis.
Of the five insurance companies I researched, only Sun Life has a really comprehensive guide to their coverage and other aspects of medical cannabis in Canada. Even if they are not your insurance company I would highly recommend their PDF document on the subject, there’s a lot of great information in there.
Great West Lifeco
In March, 2019 Great West Lifeco announced that it had introduced “optional medical cannabis coverage to our Pay-Direct Drug plans which represent the vast majority of all of our drug plans, to help the financial, physical and mental well-being of Canadians.” Past the 2019 press release, it is hard to find much more information about their coverage for medical cannabis, but I did find a PDF buried on their website that offers more detail.
You can go ahead and get all the details on the Great West PDF, but the form does clearly state that, “to be eligible for coverage medical cannabis must represent reasonable treatment for the condition upon which your claim is placed.” But be warned that, “approval for coverage of medical cannabis may be reassessed at any time at Great-West Life’s discretion.” So its probably best to ask your Great-West representative or your employer to clarify their policy before going ahead with any purchases that you expect to get reimbursed for.
In 2018, Desjardins added medical cannabis coverage to its health insurance plan. According to Dejardins, the company “added medical cannabis coverage to its supplementary health care coverage for group insurance plans, says an announcement distributed to the insurer’s sales force.” And, “plan members will be required to obtain a prescription for medical cannabis from an authorized health professional and purchase it from a producer authorized by Health Canada. Members and their dependents must be 21 years of age or older.”
Past the announcement in 2018, there is little information on the Dejardins website, at least that I could find, so be sure to check with Dejardins if they are your health insurance provider before making a claim.
iA Financial Group
For the life of me, I cannot find anything on Industrial Alliance Insurance and their coverage of medical cannabis. I googled and took a deep-dive into their website, so if you know something I don’t know please drop us a line and we will update this article.
Manulife Financial Corp.
In 2018, Manulife Insurance recently announced that they’ve partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart and their medical cannabis service. According to Manulife, “members will get ongoing case management from Shoppers Drug Mart’s patient care centre, tailored to fit their individual needs. However, it is up to employers to opt in to the Manulife medical marijuana program in order for you to receive coverage. You can read more about their program on their website.
Medavie Blue Cross
In 2018, Blue Cross added optional coverage for medical cannabis prescriptions after medical cannabis was made legal in Canada. As Blue Cross states: “The medical cannabis benefit is provided as a reimbursement benefit covering fresh and dried cannabis and cannabis oil. Other cannabis products and products related to the consumption of cannabis are ineligible. Plan sponsors may choose from a few different annual benefit maximum options.” It is important to note that the Blue Cross medical cannabis coverage only extends to the treatment of a narrow band of medical conditions:
- Chronic neuropathic pain
- Refractory pain in palliative cancer
- Nausea and vomiting due to cancer chemotherapy
- Spasticity in multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury
If your employer offers the Blue Cross optional coverage for medical cannabis, here is the pre-authorization form [pdf] you will need your doctor to fill out and submit prior to making an insurance claim.