Pubdate: Fri, 23 Feb 2018
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Andrea Peacock
Page: A1


Medical marijuana added to health-insurance plan

Medical marijuana will soon be part of health insurance for students
at UBC Okanagan.

The one-year pilot program will begin in September. University of
Waterloo began a similar plan in 2014.

The idea was initiated by Michelle Thiessen, chairwoman of the
Okanagan chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and a
UBCO graduate student.

Without coverage for medical marijuana, students are left covering 100
per cent of the costs while still paying into the student health
insurance plan, she said.

"I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I was intrigued why it hadn't
been done before," said Trophy Ewila, student union president, adding
it was unanimously supported by the board of directors. "If cannabis
is a solution for some of the illnesses that are very critical, the
stigma around it should not be the limitation for people to get
insurance for it."

Students must be approved by a doctor for specific illnesses to
qualify for coverage, including chronic pain and nausea from

"It's not just for anybody that wants it," said Ewila.

The students' union has set aside $20,000 to cover the costs of the
medical marijuana prescriptions, and students who are approved will
have to pay a 20 per cent co-pay.

The average cost of medical cannabis is $500 a month, said Jonathan
Zaid, executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical
Marijuana, an advocacy group.

"The government also applies sales tax to it," he said. "These costs
are significant."

It remains unknown how much of that cost will be covered by the
insurance plan.

A third party will assess each claim to ensure everyone is using the
cannabis for legitimate medical purposes, said Zaid.

Along with lowering the out-of-pocket cost for students, data will
also be collected to research the impact of such coverage.

"There's some research that suggests a substitution effect, where
people who are prescribed medical cannabis are finding effective
relief, and they're replacing their prescribed pharmaceutical
medications or even alcohol and other drugs with medical cannabis,"
said Zaid. "I think that is a positive sign, and the research program
will be able to look at what impact it has."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt