Where Marijuana Is the Doctor’s Orders, Will Insurers Pay?

Where Marijuana Is the Doctor’s Orders, Will Insurers Pay?

Published on 11/27/16

This year quite a few states have legalized medical marijuana, bringing the total to 28 in the US. More people than ever are curious about the benefits of medical marijuana and wonder if it will be covered by insurance like the prescriptions it could potentially replace. Unfortunately, like every marijuana law it is left up to each individual state meaning different rules around the country. Some states have specifically exempted employer insurances from covering medical marijuana costs, while others like New Mexico will require workplace insurers to pay for medical marijuana as long as its recommended by a doctor. Employers allover the country will also retain their right to test for marijuana and keep a drug-free workplace. 

Usually, patients pay for the drug themselves and several states have explicitly exempted workplace compensation insurers for covering such costs.

But as a result of recent state court rulings in New Mexico, workplace insurers there are required to pay for marijuana-based treatments if they are recommended by a doctor. And lower courts in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have issued rulings directing workplace insurers to do so.

The number of patients receiving such coverage is small. And because marijuana is illegal under federal law, insurers paying for the drug must use a financial workaround to avoid violations. One strategy is to reimburse patients for their costs rather than make a direct payment to a marijuana dispensary.

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