Good news! Today, over half of the US— that’s 29 US states and 3 territories— have legalized medical cannabis for their residents. The bad news? Medical marijuana patients must still cough up the cash to cover their own medication. That’s right. Because of federal prohibition, there are no cannabis products covered by health insurance.
Health Insurance and Federal Law
Federal law still considers cannabis to be a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Because medical treatment must be approved by the FDA, health insurers won’t foot the bill for a single sticky nug of medical green until marijuana is reclassified.
Instead, some insurance companies offer coverage for legal alternatives to medical marijuana. For AIDS or chemotherapy patients, insurers cover substitutes like the synthetic THC imitation Marinol for nausea and appetite loss. Unfortunately, these alternate drugs cause sleep issues, depression, and headaches. Generally, with medical cannabis, patients can avoid these typical side effects.
No matter what, there aren’t any cannabis products covered by health insurance. Not even nonpsychoactive CBD products. However, on a state-by-state basis, alternatives and cost-saving opportunities can help lessen some of the costs of being a medical marijuana patient. Recently, New York State ordered insurers to cover any medical visit involving a medical marijuana certification. Still, the main reason for the doctor visit cannot be the only the certification itself. Similarly, many states offer sliding scale fees for obtaining a medical card. These helpful programs reduce the hassle of fees incurred simply by becoming a medical marijuana patient.
Worker’s Compensation May Help Cover MMJ
Though only a minority demographic benefits, states’ Worker’s Compensation boards have recently ruled in favor of MMJ patients seeking coverage. In New Jersey, a man injured on the job at a lumber mill sought reimbursement for MMJ prescribed to him while enrolled in the state’s medical program. The judge rewarded not only the money for the bud for treating his chronic pain but also future treatment.
Worker’s Compensation claims may be one of MMJ patients’ only ways to receive coverage. In New Mexico, injured workers must first receive a marijuana prescription for “reasonable and necessary care”. Workers must pay out of pocket for their medicine. Then health insurers must reimburse them for the costs of treatment. Likewise, Maine has issued similar rulings. There, a worker experienced a back injury while he was on the clock at a paper mill. On his side, the state’s Worker’s Compensation Board ruled that his former employer’s insurance must cover his medical cannabis. Other states are undergoing
Final Hit: Are Cannabis Products Covered By Health Insurance?
The majority of medical marijuana patients can’t benefit from the angle of Worker’s Compensation claims. For most, health insurance still won’t cover a cannabis prescription. Luckily in some states, many dispensaries offer discounts on various products sold in their storefronts. Certain medical products may be on sale, depending on the day and location. Far from being as good as no out-of-pocket cost, these deals may certainly keep a medical weed patient from breaking the bank.
But maybe these alternatives to lack of medical marijuana coverage aren’t enough. Well then, there’s always moving to Canada. In that utopia in the north, many health insurers fund patients’ medical cannabis prescriptions. As if Americans needed another reason to flee across the border.