Will Your Health Insurance Pay for Your Weed?

Will Your Health Insurance Pay for Your Weed?

Introduction

Whether taken legally in some states for medicinal purposes or recreationally and illegally in others, marijuana is the drug of choice for many Americans. In fact, research as recent as 2013 indicates that marijuana use is on the rise. With voters across the country approving the legal use of medicinal marijuana, those figures only look to increase. Medicinal marijuana even stands to impact the health insurance marketplace. You might be used to getting your prescriptions covered through your insurance, but will you now be able to find one that pays for your weed, too?

Marijuana Use in America

A 2013 study conducted by Gallup revealed some interesting statistics about marijuana use in the U.S. A reported 38 percent of Americans admitted to trying marijuana up from 33 percent in 1985 and 34 percent in 1999. Few age boundaries exist as far as Americans’ marijuana use is concerned. Almost half of all individuals who have experimented with marijuana tried it for the first time between ages 30-49. In fact, this age group is the one most likely to be smoking weed today. According to Gallup, more individual’s ages 30 to 64 are smoking weed than their younger generation, young adults aged 18 to 29.

The Gallup poll further revealed little differences in marijuana use among races, education, and income levels. These findings show that marijuana use is pervasive in the U.S., with individuals from a variety of backgrounds smoking weed. While most are doing it recreationally, some marijuana use is for medicinal purposes, especially with changing laws in some states.

Marijuana Legality in the U.S.

Twenty U.S. states permit legal marijuana use in some capacity. State laws vary widely in this area even states that permit medicinal marijuana use have different laws on how it can be obtained and used. Proposals, propositions, state bills, and initiatives have been placed on many state ballots in recent years, with voters approving the legality of marijuana. For example, Arizona approved Proposition 203 in 2010, which allows qualifying patients to purchase a medical marijuana registry identification card. This card gives the patient permission to smoke weed for medicinal purposes, as prescribed by his or her physician. Other states have similar cards, which ensure that the patient can smoke weed to ease the symptoms of a range of debilitating conditions without being arrested or charged with a crime.

Impact on Health Insurance

Recent trends show that more and more voters are saying “yes” to legalizing marijuana. With medicinal marijuana accepted a legal treatment option in 20 states, it’s time to consider its impact on health care. As it stands today, medicinal marijuana does not have to be covered by health insurance, and federally funded health care programs such as Medicaid do not cover medicinal marijuana. Checking out healthcare.gov is not going to reveal an insurance plan that covers weed. So, while using marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal in many states, it still comes at the cost of the patient.

Looking Ahead

Platforms such as Jibe Health,   www.jibehealth.com match consumers based on their needs with affordable health insurance plans. Jibe Health also offers a variety of private health exchange plans options. Insurance Carriers include Bluecrossbluesheild.com Atena.com, Humana.com, Unitedhealth.com, Coventry, Cigna and many others.

However, even when you buy health insurance, you still have to pay out of pocket for medicinal marijuana because most laws state that insurance companies are not required to cover this treatment. So, for the time being, the answer to the question “Will my insurance pay for my weed?” is a resounding no.

That said, if marijuana is identified as an effective treatment for a range of conditions, proponents of medicinal marijuana have a valid argument in favor of insurance coverage. Research reveals that marijuana can help ease the symptoms and side effects of a range of conditions, helping individuals with cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and a range of other chronic and debilitating conditions. If other prescriptions and treatments for these diseases are covered, why isn’t medical marijuana covered? In this form, weed is not an illegal drug being taken recreationally. Instead, it’s a prescription treatment just like your everyday antibiotic that is covered by health insurance. As the legality of marijuana shifts, will health insurance shift as well and, ultimately, cover weed as a treatment?

Those against insurance coverage would argue that the medicinal marijuana laws are open to fraud. Will individuals seeking easy access to weed fib about a health condition in order to get a legal prescription? Will unscrupulous health care practitioners seeking to increase their patient load readily dole out marijuana prescriptions? Will patients looking to score a weed prescription shop for doctors who are willing to prescribe marijuana for a range of benign medical issues, such as back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome? The mere potential for these problems to occur is enough for states and insurance companies to leave medical marijuana expenses up to the patient.

Conclusion

America’s views on marijuana legality are changing, and medicinal marijuana is a treatment option for an increasing number of citizens. This fluid situation will surely evolve over time, whether more states put medicinal marijuana on the ballot or insurance companies eventually cover this treatment or both.

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