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Is Medical Marijuana Covered by Health Insurance?

October 17, 2018 • • Insurance
Medical insurance application and legal contract

Navigating health insurance coverage can be complicated, and that’s especially true when medical marijuana is concerned. We’re here to help.

Medical marijuana has finally arrived here in Ohio, providing patients with an important new treatment option for a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, nausea, cancer, and Crohn’s disease, among others. By legalizing medical marijuana, Ohio joins over half of the states in the country and Washington, D.C. However, because of federal regulations, most health insurance companies have yet to catch up. Here’s the current state of insurance coverage for medical marijuana, and how you can find affordable cannabis treatment.

Federal Regulations and Medical Marijuana

Despite significant evidence to the contrary, the federal government still considers medical marijuana to be a Schedule 1 substance “with no currently accepted medical use” under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that the FDA, as a federal agency, has not issued its stamp of approval to medical marijuana. Because it is not FDA-approved, health insurers are not required to cover medical cannabis as part of the insurance plans they offer. However, there is a reason to believe that positive change is on the horizon. In June, for the first time ever, the FDA approved a drug made from the cannabis plant compound CBD. Although the particular anti-seizure drug has not yet arrived on the market, there is a strong possibility that this historic change in the FDA’s policy could pave the way for health insurance coverage for medical marijuana. In addition, the success of medical marijuana programs in other countries may foretell similar success coming to the U.S. soon. Germany legalized medical marijuana nationwide in 2017, and its insurance companies are legally required to cover the treatment. Canadian health insurers also began to cover medical marijuana last year.

Financial Options for Medical Marijuana Patients

As we wait for important changes from our federal government and health insurance providers, some states are leading the way on patient access to medical marijuana. In New York, insurance companies are required to cover medical visits involving medical marijuana certification, although obtaining a medical marijuana prescription can’t be the main reason for the visit. In New Jersey, New Mexico, and Maine, court rulings have stipulated that workers’ compensation insurance carriers must reimburse out-of-pocket medical marijuana expenses for those injured on the job. While this isn’t yet the case in Ohio, these other states’ precedent indicates that injured Ohioans may one day soon receive workers’ compensation benefits to choose medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan. In the meantime, Lakewood Medical Clinic is here to consult with you about your options, regardless of health insurance coverage. Schedule a consultation with one of our clinicians to learn more.