Medical marijuana has been gaining popularity across the US. According to the Washington Post, 80 percent of doctors support use of medical marijuana. In addition, over 90 percent of patients claim it helps with their particular conditions. Regardless of the shift in public opinion, the medical use of cannabis remains federally prohibited. This creates a number of issues, including whether or not medical marijuana should be covered by health insurance.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana On Health Insurance Costs
Legalizing medical marijuana has reduced healthcare costs in states across the US, but cannabis products cannot be paid for using public or private health insurance. This means patients are shouldering the burden of the insurance providers’ reduced medical costs.
States that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a drop in overall prescription medication use, saving Medicare an estimated $165 million in 2013 alone. Medicare could save nearly $470 million if legalization were extended nationwide.
Despite these benefits, insurance companies in the US still refuse to cover the costs. Part of this stems from the fact that cannabis, even its medical use, is still federally illegal.
In addition to patients not being able to use health insurance to help cover costs, some markets even tax medical marijuana on either state or local levels – sometimes both. This means that patients who opt for cannabis treatment often pay extreme costs.
Negative Effects of Medical Marijuana On Insurance Rates
Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, recognized to have high potential for abuse and no medical uses, the federal government maintains that cannabis has no medicinal benefit. Insurance companies, especially government covered healthcare like Medicare, base policies on the Schedule I classification. Thus preventing coverage.
If patients don’t want to pay out of pocket or cannot afford the price of medical marijuana in their state, they could explore other cannabis-based drugs which health insurance does cover. New pharmaceuticals are currently being developed with a number of legal, FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoids. However, synthetic cannabinoids carry more potent side-effects and are often prescribed only after all other options are exhausted.
Currently, health insurance and medical marijuana don’t mix. However, as laws and public perception continue to shift in favor of cannabis, the environment may change as well. Conditions may lead insurance providers to cover the costs of medical cannabis. Until then, patients will need to continue paying out of pocket.
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