New York Lawmakers Wants Insurance to Cover Medical Cannabis Costs

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One of the most frustrating issues about cannabis legalization, particularly medical cannabis programs, is that it often leaves those with low income or no income without access to cannabis. Simply put, people who have severe conditions often can’t afford dispensary prices and can’t grow their own cannabis due to disability or legal reasons.

Growing cannabis is an energy- and resource-intensive process. It also takes experience to get it right, and patients often don’t have the patience to learn all the nuances of raising their own medicine. Farmers and professional growers deserve to make money for the effort and skill growing cannabis requires. Companies that risk the freedom of their owners and employees, as well as the potential for state or federal officials to seize their business assets, deserve to make at least some profit.

However, when you add state taxes to that equation, and you have a recipe for very expensive cannabis at state-licensed dispensaries. For those who require regular doses of concentrates, a single day’s worth of cannabis medicine could be $100 or more.

Some people are simply too sick to grow their own. Others may want to, but their state law may not offer the right to cultivate at home. The result of all of these various issues is that dispensary cannabis isn’t always accessible to people who need it, even if those people qualify under a state medical cannabis program.

Thanks to the federal government’s insistence on maintaining cannabis as a Schedule I substance, insurance companies haven’t offered coverage for cannabis medicine, even when recommended by a physician. Private insurance companies typically won’t touch cannabis for any reason, and state insurance programs have historically not covered it either.

That may soon change, as New York’s Assembly will soon vote on a new bill that would require state insurance programs cover medical cannabis. Democratic New York lawmaker, Richard Gottfried, along with at least 17 cosponsors, introduced AB 11390 on October 22, and it will need to pass both houses and secure a signature from the governor to change New York law about insurance and cannabis.

If signed into law, AB 11390 would add medical cannabis to public insurance programs in New York and also create legal language asserting the right of private insurance companies to cover cannabis medicines as well. Patients with cancer, epilepsy, and other debilitating conditions will have the opportunity to use state insurance, such as Medicaid, to obtain medical cannabis from specially licensed dispensaries.

While there are potential complications with this law, it is clearly rooted in compassion for seriously ill and indigent patients in New York. Allowing for more safe access and insurance coverage is a brilliant move that may make cannabis treatments a feasible option for thousands of New York citizens with serious medical conditions.


For previous Ladybud stories about medical cannabis, click here.



Photo Credit: wadester16 via Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0