Sun Life and many of Canada’s major health insurance companies have cautiously approached the Medical Marijuana landscape due to the potentially high costs of coverage, and thin clinical proof of its effectiveness. In the U.S. insurance providers are countlessly denying claims due to federal roadblocks, even with state courts pushing for fair use. Will new rulings outweigh the old in an act to reshape the judicial system? Unfortunately we don’t see widespread Medical Cannabis coverage realistic in the short term, however, progress is definitely still being made in the right direction.
According to a New Hampshire Supreme Court decision, the court ruled in favour of Mr. Panaggio, age 59, who was demanding coverage for an on the job injury. Using Medical Marijuana to treat the pain caused by his injury, the board re-reviewed the case and did admit they found it to be a therapeutic benefit to him, however, both the board and the court could not confirm the coverage because of Marijuana’s criminal status federally. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” said Panaggio, a former chemical worker in Nashua, New Hampshire, who was injured in 1991 and has been fighting for insurance coverage ever since.
Another, not so recent American case from New Jersey holds up as the most recent major proceeding, as administration judges ruled that an insurance company must reimburse the Medical Marijuana bill of a man who suffered an on the job injury, back in 2014. Andrew Watson developed a neuropathic pain is his hand after a power saw accident at work. He soon demanded his health insurance cover the cost of Medical Cannabis after his physician classified it as appropriate treatment. These are the kinds of physician-level recommendations that will move the general public away from opioid painkillers, as well as their inverse long term side effects. Judge Ingrid L French made the ruling after hearing testimony from both Watson and Cherry Hill’s psychiatric neurologists who endorsed the benefits of Cannabis.
The courts continue to rule however that federal law must take precedence in conflicts involving medical coverage. At least five states, including Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Mexico, are reimbursing Medical Marijuana treatment under compensation laws, so we still view the push back some companies are giving as just an unwillingness to comply. In states such as Florida, North Dakota, and Michigan, laws have been passed to exclude covering such treatment for worker compensation.
The positive rulings where insurance companies are compelled to cover Marijuana could be paramount for medical patients as well as healthcare companies. At this point in time, all Cannabis patients must pay for their own medical use. We believe this will offer very powerful cost savings with respect to the entire worker’s compensation industry. More costly pharmaceuticals can be reduced and Medical Marijuana would be a less expensive treatment option.
However, the new nature of the Cannabis plant and the uncertainty surrounding it will lead insurers to scrutinize the conditions they cover under a meticulous microscope. The range of conditions covered in the future, from post-traumatic stress disorder to short-term sleep disturbances, will open the door to including larger amounts of the population who are looking for alternative solutions. Only time will tell how the Medical Cannabis landscape unfolds and if the health insurers will put up a fight or begin building out the offerings that people certainly want and need.
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