Will Insurance Cover Medical Marijuana?

Medical Marijuana Insurance Coverage

Will Insurance Cover Medical Marijuana?

Are you wondering if insurance will cover your Maryland medical marijuana card? As medical marijuana is becoming more common across the country many are asking the same question. The evidence continues to mount that cannabis is not something to use just recreationally, but there are many therapeutic benefits. And the legal status of medical marijuana can be confusing to many. While the state of Maryland has legalized medical cannabis, the federal government has not. In this article, we will clear up the mystery surrounding insurance and Maryland medical marijuana and investigate why the current coverage is the case.

Does Insurance Cover Maryland Medical Marijuana?

No, unfortunately there is no coverage for medical marijuana in Maryland. The idea of insurance covering expenses related to getting your Maryland medical cannabis card makes perfect sense. After all you must register as a patient with the state. You must visit a certified provider to gain access to medical cannabis. If you are going to a reputable medical marijuana doctor, everything they are doing in their office is 100% HIPPA compliant, meaning all the things are done with complete confidentiality.

You pay for health insurance so you can get help on expensive medical procedures and pharmaceuticals recommended by your doctor. So, why shouldn’t medical marijuana be covered by insurance?

The main reason that insurance will not cover medical marijuana is because it is still federally not legal. In fact, it is more than not legal. The federal government still classifies medical marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. According to the DEA, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”, and marijuana is on that list. This means that insurance companies, and especially government health coverage like Medicare and Medicaid cannot cover medical marijuana.

Other Issues With Insurance Coverage

While the federal laws are the biggest obstacle to insurance covering Maryland medical marijuana, it is not the only issue. The general conservatism in medicine in American is another problem. The medical community tends to move extremely slow in our country. While there are benefits to taking it slow with new treatments, it can also have negative effects for patients.

Overall, a measured approach to medicine is a good thing, nobody wants an undiscovered side effect in a popular prescription, but it is a double-edged sword. In the case of marijuana, it means that while some doctors have begun recommending medical marijuana to patients, others are holding out for higher quality and more numerous research papers. Here is the problem with that approach in America. Because marijuana is still treated as a Schedule 1 drug it is nearly impossible to do research on it or get the FDA to evaluate that research. So, while doctors are calling for further research before prescribing no research can really occur, so it is a cycle that has no end.

And for a drug or procedure to typically get insurance approval it must first receive FDA approval. Well, you cannot have FDA approval if marijuana is treated like a dangerous substance. So, until federal rules change it is highly unlikely insurance will cover medical marijuana.

What Does All Of This Mean For Patients?

Unfortunately, this means that patients must pay for anything medical cannabis related out of pocket. This means that you must pay for all the steps required to get your medical marijuana card yourself. This means you are responsible for the application fee to the state of Maryland and the certification fee at your medical marijuana doctor’s office.

Does Medical Marijuana Affect Health Insurance Rates?

Well, we now know that Maryland medical marijuana will not be covered by insurance, but does using it affect your insurance rates? This question is not an unreasonable one to ask since over 100,000 patients are a part of Maryland’s medical marijuana program and it continues to grow. From an insurance company perspective there are both pros and cons to medical marijuana.

One of the biggest benefits to increased medical marijuana use in the country is a decrease in other prescription usage. A 2016 study found that prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013 decreased for drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative. In particular, the prescription rates for these drugs fell significantly once a medical marijuana law was implemented in a state. This led to an estimated $165 million savings in prescription drug costs.

Even with these significant savings, some people are still raising concerns about insurance companies covering medical marijuana. They say that the amount of people using it will lead to rising premiums if it is covered by health insurance.

Is Any Medical Marijuana Covered By Insurance?

While most forms of medical cannabis are not covered by insurance there are some notable exceptions. The first is a CBD based drug called Epidiolex. CBD or cannabidiol is a cannabinoid found in the hemp or marijuana plants that has been shown to have numerous effects including being helpful in treating certain forms of epilepsy. Epidiolex is not only covered by insurance, but it has also been FDA approved.

Nabilone is another cannabis-based drug that is covered by insurance. It is a synthetic form of THC that can treat or prevent nausea and vomiting caused by cancer medications. Again, this drug has also been fully approved by the FDA.

Will Maryland Medical Marijuana Be Covered In The Future?

The answer is no one knows for sure, but the signs do appear to be bright for at least some level of coverage for medical marijuana in the future. There continues to be a growing amount of research and understanding about medical cannabis and certain cannabinoids in the plant. As this body of research continues to grow it is likely that the FDA may be more friendly to medical marijuana.

This growing body of research may also help to change federal laws which would have the biggest impact on insurance coverage of medical marijuana. One great example of this is the federal government’s treatment of hemp, another cannabis plant. In 2018 the federal government made all hemp-based products federally legal. This has made it easier to get access to products like CBD that are hemp derived.

Takeaways

Unfortunately, there is no insurance coverage for Maryland medical marijuana or the process of obtaining your medical card. This means that you are responsible for all costs associated with getting your medical card or purchasing medical marijuana out of pocket. This is mainly the case because of current federal laws. However, there is hope for the future with FDA approval of certain cannabis-based drugs and federal law changing with respect to hemp. In the future, it certainly seems possible that Maryland medical cannabis in some form or another could be covered by health insurance.

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