Will Health Insurance Ever Cover Medical Marijuana?
Updated: Feb 15
Many patients have asked our team at Ohio Marijuana Card about whether insurance will ever cover cannabis doctor visits or medical marijuana products. At current, because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, it is not possible for insurance companies to cover cannabis doctors or products in any way. But will that ever change?
Slow Marijuana Growth In Ohio
Now that Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries are open, patients finally have access to Ohio-grown medical marijuana. But costs have been admittedly high, which has led to many patients waiting until prices drop (which they will). This has resulted in slower sales growth during the first month of Ohio's medical marijuana program. In fact, Ohio earned just shy of $1 million in sales from January 2019 to February 2019, with only 126 pounds of cannabis sold during that time.
To put some context on that number, our Pennsylvania neighbors managed nearly $130 million in sales during their first year. At current, Ohio is on track to sell roughly $12-24 million during their first year. Naturally, not all dispensaries are open yet, and not all cultivators are up and running, so an explosion of growth is possible by the turn of the summer. But this issue hasn't gone unnoticed by the Ohio cannabis industry, including the doctors at Ohio Marijuana Card. And many are upset that patients are forced to endure frustratingly high costs, even if it is only short term.
Prices are expected to drop over time, as more cultivators crop up, and more dispensaries open. However, this slow start puts a powerful punctuation to the fact that cannabis needs to be covered by insurance, so patients can subsidize the costs of their medical visits and medication.
Ohio's Own Financial Challenges
If you're an Ohioan, you probably know a little about balancing your budget, and working within a financial range. On a personal note, I spend a decent portion of my free time budgeting and balancing my income between bills, food and fun. It can be a challenge some weeks, that much is certain. And many Ohioans are suffering, both from health issues and financial woes.
According to DataUSA, the average household income in Ohio sits at around $52k a year. With the cost of living rising, many Ohioans have shifted to a fixed income or live paycheck-to-paycheck. This means that many Ohioans are one catastrophe away from financial ruin. Something as simple as a traffic accident could cost you thousands and leave you penniless.
What this means is that the cost of medical marijuana may be an expenditure that some patients will turn away from if insurance does not eventually cover cannabis. It's estimated that Ohio has around 250,000 potential patients who could qualify for medical marijuana in the state, but with costs of product so high, the number of those potential patients will decline. And though there are already tens of thousands of Ohioans participating in Ohio's medical marijuana control program, the numbers would greatly expand if insurance coverage was offered from major insurers.
Why Marijuana Should Be Covered By Insurance
There are medical marijuana patients with serious ailments, from fibromyalgia to cancer, PTSD and Crohn's Disease, not to mention the thousands of pain patients, each enduring severe pain for ailments like arthritis, migraines, back injuries and more. Any many, after exhausting dozens of options, eventually find relief that doesn't come with deadly side effects (like those with opioids). That relief is medical marijuana.
For many, cannabis reduces pain and anxiety. It can even restore balance for those who've lost it due to years of suffering. I suffer from gout and PTSD myself. Medical marijuana has helped calm painful gouty attacks. And indica strains have greatly helped ease the negative side effects from PTSD. Where traditional medicines failed, cannabis helped.
But despite the millions and millions of patient testimonials, all throughout the world. And despite the science and research that is now in abundance. Despite all of this, the federal government has not moved cannabis from their list of controlled substances. As such, cannabis is a highly monitored plant that is largely restricted country-wide, even in states with medical or recreational marijuana programs.
Insurance companies could take the leap, and place pressure on the federal government by moving to research cannabis coverage. Though providing insurance coverage would be illegal under federal law right now, large insurance companies researching coverage options might inspire change. Alas, much like the federal government's strict stance, conservative views favor science and reason in the insurance community.
Will Insurance Ever Cover Cannabis?
Though most insurance companies are staying away from cannabis right now, it's possible that we'll see some type of coverage in the future. Many politicians, both Republican and Democrat, support cannabis legalization efforts, including several 2020 democratic presidential candidates. And there are even a few bills that have been submitted to congress.
Until a solution to the insurance issue presents itself, residents of the Buckeye State will have to pay out of pocket for cannabis doctors, services and products.
We will keep you posted about any developments on this front. There are rumors that cannabis may be rescheduled in the next year, but they are just that -- rumors. As any news develops, we will let you know. So stay tuned and stay healthy!
If you are an Ohioan suffering from one of these 21 medical conditions you may be eligible to treat your ailment with medical marijuana, which includes both THC and CBD products.
Click here to learn more about what Ohio Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at 1-866-457-5559 and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.