Health Insurers Won’t Pay for Medical Pot

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That's so even though medical marijuana is legal in 21 states.

Just say no. That’s health insurance companies’ response to paying for medical marijuana.

The Associated Press said medical marijuana treatments can cost upward of $1,000 a month, an unwanted hit that patients have to cover themselves. Marijuana has gained acceptance for its ability to dull pain and other chronic symptoms of conditions ranging from epilepsy to cancer.

Despite medical marijuana being legal in 21 states, health insurers won’t be paying for the treatment anytime soon, in part because of conflicting laws.

Pot is still illegal under federal law and in 29 states. And, according to AP:

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for insurers is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it. Major insurers generally don’t cover treatments that are not approved by the FDA, and that approval depends on big clinical studies that measure safety, effectiveness and side effects.

Clinical research costs millions of dollars and can take years to complete. The FDA has approved treatments that contain a synthetic version of an ingredient in marijuana. But at this point there’s been no approval for a treatment that uses a real marijuana plant.

Clinical studies for marijuana are also a challenge because pot is classified as a Schedule I drug. That classification of drug, which includes heroin, is deemed to have a significant potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to LifeHealthPro, a life and health insurance adviser site.

“Because health care plans and insurance policies typically exclude coverage for experimental treatments, insurers may continue to decline payment for marijuana as long as it remains on Schedule I,” LifeHealthPro said.

Says the AP:

The American Medical Association has called for a change in marijuana’s classification to one that makes it easier for research to be conducted. The current classification prevents physicians from even prescribing it in states where medical use is permitted. Instead, they can only recommend it to patients.

The AP added:

Even if the FDA approves medicinal marijuana, there’s no guarantee that insurance coverage will become widespread. Big companies that pay medical bills for their workers and dependents decide what items their insurance plans cover. They may not be eager to add the expense.

Do you think health insurers should have to pay for medical marijuana? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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