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Who Is Responsible To Pay For Medical Marijuana Use?

Very few industries are as complex as medical insurance and the laws regulating them. In Canada, many insurance companies are fighting against the liability of paying for medical marijuana as a reasonable medical necessity for patients. Just because it is legal doesn’t mean that insurance companies are forced to accept claims to have it covered for a patient’s pain management.

Recent court case outcomes in both the US and Canada are focusing on whether medical insurance companies should have to pay for doctors who prescribe medical marijuana as a course of treatment. With opioid use reaching epidemic proportions, many physicians believe that medical marijuana might be a more reasonable way to treat pain without all the side effects or the addictive nature.

Courts across Canada are ruling that insurance companies have to cover medical marijuana when it’s prescribed. Likewise, in the US, New Jersey just ruled that workers’ compensation was responsible for covering the costs of medical marijuana going forward. Setting a new precedent and not just in New Jersey, this is a major blow to insurance companies who have previously denied it as a viable alternative to prescription opioids.

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There have been numerous studies to indicate that the benefits of marijuana far outweigh any side effects that can come with a carefully prescribed amount. Although there aren’t as many studies to determine how to dose medical marijuana, which is why it remains a hot topic, what is apparent is that the person is much better off taking marijuana than running the risk of being addicted to opioids, especially for chronic pain conditions.

Other risks associated with the use of opioids, like shutting down or slowing down breathing, can put people with chronic conditions at additional risk; medical marijuana doesn’t have that effect on the body. Studies prove that marijuana doesn’t affect the mid portion of the brain that houses the controls for the heart rate, respiration or any other involuntary life-saving processes. So it works much more safely than its opioid counterparts.

One of the biggest hurdles is trying to decipher the legalities of those states where medical marijuana is still not legal. Since workers’ compensation is run through the state, asking for the state to cover the cost is nonsensical. You can’t insist that an insurance company pay for something that isn’t even legal.

Insurance companies Winnipeg, however in 2015, the courts ruled that those who had a medical need had the right to obtain cannabis products, as long as they follow the specific rules and the products come from a licensed producer. As long as someone is licensed by the government, they are allowed to dispense medical-grade marijuana to those who have gotten the prescription. The problem is that many individuals have been left to their own devices since medical insurance carriers are still denying claims.

It would make sense that the government should step in to ensure that insurance companies are obligated to pay for treatment that is more beneficial and comes with very few, if any, risks to the patient. If a patient can gain benefits from the use of marijuana, why would it make sense to limit their access or deny them coverage?

Opioid use has been proven to lengthen the time needed to pay for medications on a chronic and long-term basis. Even in instances where the pain has subsided, the addiction process takes over, and opioids that were intended only for acute conditions, comes with other long-term health consequences.

There is likely change on the horizon for insurance companies who refuse to pay for medical marijuana for patient care. Even with the lack of FDA approval in the US and other legalities related to the Canadian laws, the evidence continues to mount that it is a better alternative for the patient. What insurers will eventually see is that it is probably a cheaper alternative to opioid use over the long term, and won’t have them paying for the disasters that can come with long-term and sustained use of painkillers and opioids.

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