Client Update: Benefits plans really do not have to cover the sun, the moon and the stars (and medical cannabis)

Rick Dunlop and Richard Jordan

Employers, and benefit providers on their behalf, make policy decisions as to what drugs or benefits (including monetary limits) will be covered by benefit plans. The Board of Trustees in Board of Trustees of the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Fund v. Skinner, 2018 NSCA 31 made the policy decision not to cover medical cannabis. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found that this policy decision was not discriminatory and set aside a Nova Scotia Human Rights Board of Inquiry (“BOI”) decision (discussed here), which found that the decision was discriminatory.

Benefit plans are limited and that’s OK  

Stewart McKelvey represented the intervenor, Nova Scotia Private Sector Employers Roundtable (“Employers Roundtable”), in support of the Trustees. The Court recognized the Employers Roundtable’s fundamental concern that the BOI decision meant that “every denial of health benefits could trigger a human rights review with attendant obligations to justify or accommodate”. The Court accepted the Employers Roundtable’s submission that a benefit limitation is not prima facie discriminatory. The Court eloquently explains:

Benefit plans are necessarily limited in many ways. In this case, Mr. Skinner invokes one of those limits to claim prima facie discrimination. The logical consequence of his argument is that every under-inclusive benefits plan results in prima facie discrimination which the plan administrators must justify if a physician prescribes the medication because approved drugs are ineffective. Every request for medication not covered under a plan could be subject to a human rights complaint and require justification for refusal. Human rights boards would become arbiters of private benefit plans. Scarce plan resources would be consumed with justification hearings because justification would usually turn on the particular circumstances of each case.

* * *

Whether to provide a particular benefit, in this case a particular drug, could be based on many factors. Disability would be common to all applicants, because it is a prerequisite to any beneficial entitlement. That alone cannot make it a factor in the decision. As the Employers Roundtable argues, the Board’s recognition that Welfare Plans need not cover the ‘sun, the moon and the stars’ is an implicit admission that non-coverage decisions – and their effects – do not necessarily make disability a factor in those non-coverage decisions. But the Board’s decision side-steps the third Moore criterion so that the existence of a disability by default makes disability a factor.

A prima facie case for discrimination must be a connection between the disability and denial of medical cannabis coverage

The Court appropriately recognized Mr. Skinner’s sympathetic circumstances, but faulted the BOI for its legal analysis relating to the third part of the prima facie case for discrimination. This part of the test required Mr. Skinner to show that there was a connection between his disability and the Trustees’ decision not to cover medical cannabis.

The mere existence of a disability does not establish a connection. The BOI’s conclusion that “because Mr. Skinner was denied coverage, his disability was a factor in the decision” was flawed. The Court reasoned that it “is not enough to conclude that Mr. Skinner experienced an adverse effect arising from non-coverage of medical marijuana…It is necessary to link that exclusion with Mr. Skinner’s membership in an enumerated group…”

Sympathetic personal circumstances do not override statutory criteria

The Court agreed with the BOI’s declaration that benefit plans “need not cover ‘the sun, the moon and the stars…”, but that the BOI based its decision “on Mr. Skinner’s personal needs rather than the statutory criteria.” The statutory criteria required Mr. Skinner to establish a connection between his disability and the Trustees’ decision not to cover medical cannabis. The Court concluded that no such connection could reasonably be made.

Workers’ Compensation Appeal

This decision comes a month after the Court of Appeal’s decision in Skinner v. Nova Scotia (Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal), 2018 NSCA 23. In that case, the Court of Appeal upheld a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal decision which found that Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) did not have to pay Mr. Skinner’s medical cannabis expenses under the Board’s medical aid assistance program.


Peter McLellan, QC, Rick Dunlop and Richard Jordan successfully represented the Employers Roundtable

Rory Rogers, QC, successfully represented the WCB

SHARE

Archive

Search Archive


Generic filters
Filter by Custom Post Type

 
 

Client Update: Jury Duty – Time to Think Twice

June 6, 2013

The integrity of the jury system has become a pressing topic for our courts of late, with articles about jury duty frequently appearing front and centre in the press. The recent message from the Nova…

Read More

Doing Business in Atlantic Canada (Summer 2013)(Canadian Lawyer magazine supplement)

June 2, 2013

IN THIS ISSUE: Cloud computing: House to navigate risky skies by Daniela Bassan and Michelle Chai Growing a startup by Clarence Bennett, Twila Reid and Nicholas Russon Knowing the lay of the land – Aboriginal rights and land claims in Labrador by Colm St. Roch Seviour and Steve Scruton Download…

Read More

Client Update: The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) is coming…..

May 27, 2013

DOES IT APPLY TO YOU? On June 1, 2013, the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) comes into force in Nova Scotia.  If you are involved in health care in Nova Scotia, you need to know whether PHIA…

Read More

Atlantic Employers’ Counsel – Spring 2013

May 22, 2013

EDITOR’S COMMENT This edition of Atlantic Employers’ Counsel focuses on key areas of employment standards in Atlantic Canada. Employment standards legislation outlines the rights and obligations of employees and requirements that apply to employers in…

Read More

Client Update: Nova Scotia New tort of cyberbullying

May 17, 2013

NEW TORT OF CYBERBULLYING On May 10, 2013 the Nova Scotia legislature passed the Cyber-safety Act (Bill 61). When this bill comes into force, it will give rise to a new tort of cyberbullying that…

Read More

Client Update: Lender Code of Conduct Prepayment of Consumer Mortgages

May 2, 2013

GOVERNMENT ACTION In the Economic Action Plan 2010, the Harper Government committed to bring greater clarity to how mortgage prepayment penalties were calculated. As part of the commitment, on February 26, 2013 the government released…

Read More

Client Update: Corporate Services – Keeping you up to date

March 7, 2013

STEWART MCKELVEY WELCOMES BACK WANDA DOIRON AS MANAGER, CORPORATE SERVICES – NOVA SCOTIA You might remember Wanda from her time in our Corporate Services group from 2002 to 2008. Since then, she has worked in-house…

Read More

Atlantic Employers’ Counsel – Winter 2013

March 6, 2013

REASONABLE PEOPLE DOING QUESTIONABLE THINGS: CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND JUST CAUSE Can a unionized employee moonlight in his off hours to earn some extra money by doing the same work he does for his daytime…

Read More

Resources: SVILA E-Discovery

March 5, 2013

Stewart McKelvey’s Vision Improving Legal Analysis (SVILA*) is an e-discovery project and litigation management tool. For more information on our e-discovery services, download the SVILA e-discovery document.

Read More

SVILA E-Discovery

March 5, 2013

Stewart McKelvey’s Vision Improving Legal Analysis (SVILA*) is an e-discovery project and litigation management tool. For more information on our e-discovery services, download the SVILA e-discovery document.

Read More

Search Archive


Generic filters
Filter by Custom Post Type