Business

Manulife partnering with Shoppers Drug Mart on medical marijuana coverage

The Manulife Financial insurance company says it will launch the first medical marijuana program in Canada this fall in conjunction with Shoppers Drug Mart.
Shoppers Drug Mart's deal with Aurora comes after it recently signed similar deals with licensed medical marijuana producers Aphria, MedReleaf and Tilray. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press; Ron Ward/Canadian Press)

Manulife Financial Corp. has partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to offer enhanced medical marijuana insurance coverage.

The insurance company said Tuesday that clients who have been approved for medical marijuana coverage will be able to consult with Shoppers pharmacists at an Ontario-based patient care centre about different strains of medical marijuana and the different ways to take it.

Manulife customers will then be able to choose treatment that is covered under their Manulife plan and receive ongoing case management.

"Medical marijuana can be complex. Most medically-authorized patients need help finding the right solution for their condition," said Donna Carbell, senior vice president of group benefits at Manulife in a statement.

The program will be available as an option for participating group and individual health insurance plans starting in the fall.

The insurance company — which was already offering medical cannabis coverage to clients on a selective basis — says more details of the program with Shoppers will become available once the program takes effect.

Manulife's program is part of an evolving landscape of medical marijuana insurance coverage in Canada.

Sun Life Financial Inc. said in February that it was adding medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group benefits plans. Great-West Life Assurance Co. has said it plans to expand its medical marijuana coverage options in its group plans this year.

Coverage has, however, generally been limited to specific approved conditions. Sun Life limits coverage to conditions and symptoms associated with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, and palliative care.

In April, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal also overturned a ruling by the province's Human Rights Tribunal that had found an elevator mechanic was discriminated against because his employer didn't cover his prescription for medical marijuana.

There were more than 235,000 registered medical marijuana patients across Canada as of the end of September 2017 — the most recent date for which data is available.

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