Health Insurance and Medical Marijuana in America
Politicians and decision makers seem to be worried that if we make cannabis legal for medicinal use, then it will become in higher demand and people would abuse the drug more than is happening now. The Institute of Medicine (someone I’d be highly included to trust based on name alone) released a report in 1999 on medical marijuana examining whether the medical use of marijuana would lead to an increase of marijuana use in the general population and concluded that, “At this point there is no convincing data to support this concern. The existing data is consistent with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential.” The report also noted that, “this question is beyond the issues normally considered for medical uses of drugs, and should not be a factor in evaluating the therapeutic potential of marijuana or cannabinoids.”
This reminds me of the drinking age here in the United States versus other countries around the world, and rates of death and accidents caused by minors abusing drinking. If you look at statistics, young people under the legal drinking age of 21 here in the US tend to drink more excessively than youth in other countries, and I believe that is because alcohol consumption is considered to be so much more taboo here. In European countries, for example, wine will be served at family dinners, and it doesn’t seem that teenagers having a glass is a big to-do at all. This may be true for some American families, but I don’t feel it’s the norm across the board. I digress, but this example is meant to show that I think that legalizing cannabis can actually help take the taboo and stigma off of using the drug, and hopefully make people less likely to try and get their hands on it illegally.
The Health Insurance Angle
Although we’re certainly not there yet, seeing as there are still 35 states which have yet to legalize medical marijuana, it does make you wonder if cannabis can and will ever be covered by health insurance plans. This is an interesting pickle, and doesn’t seem like it could be feasible unless cannabis was legalized at the federal level. This is because health insurance plans usually cover a specific service area within the country (for example, Health Net offers coverage in California, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Arizona, and Connecticut), so if even one of the states an insurance company offered plans in didn’t have legal cannabis at the state level, then the plan couldn’t cover the drug at all.
A more radical way to get cannabis covered by health insurance plans would be for insurers to change the way their plan worked. Assuming that cannabis legalization stays at the state level and a health insurance company feels very strongly about giving medical marijuana coverage to its patients, they could choose to alter the states in which they offer coverage to coincide with states where it is legal.
There are always so many things to consider when thinking about health insurance. Some things are covered, others aren’t, and navigating the mess can seem like a hopeless pursuit. Special insurance is also something to learn about the particular types of special coverage and the conditions you may find yourself in. Arming yourself with knowledge around your health is crucial, so treat your body and mind well.
photo credit: Digitalshay