TORONTO (Reuters) – Sun Life Financial, Canada’s No. 2 insurer, recently started covering medical marijuana in its Canadian health insurance plan – more than 17 years after the country first legalized it.
The coverage, which requires employers to pay a premium, extends only to a handful of conditions as a last resort.
“It’s not medical marijuana for any purpose,” said Dave Jones, senior vice-president of group benefits at Sun Life. “It’s for specific conditions and symptoms where the evidence is clear that medical cannabis has enough value to outweigh risks.”
Sun Life’s cautious approach reflects concern across Canada’s health insurance industry over the potentially high costs of covering medical marijuana – in many cases higher than established pharmaceuticals – and thin clinical evidence for its efficacy.
Canada, a pioneer in approving medical marijuana, legalized recreational use this summer. Canadian insurers’ reluctance to cover it suggests most patients here and elsewhere may continue to bear most of its cost despite pending…