The legalization of Medical Marijuana has been a controversial area over the past twenty years. Cannabis is listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a schedule 1 drug, which has no currently accepted medical use.
Lately, Cannabis has gained national attention with the public and policymakers.
More seniors are becoming curious to learn about the risks and benefits of Cannabis. Seniors search for alternatives like medical cannabis for nausea instead of Zofran.
Data collected on all prescription drugs filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013 showed that prescription drugs for which marijuana could provide an alternative fell significantly, once medical marijuana acceptance was implemented.
There were overall national reductions in Medicare and enrollee spending when states started implementing medical marijuana laws, estimated to be over 153.6 million per year back in 2013. Medical cannabis has a significant impact on spending in Medicare Part D.
Does Medicare Cover Medical Marijuana (Cannabis)
The federal prohibition on prescribing marijuana makes marijuana and Medicare coverage for it impossible.
Once our lawmakers and voters make changes to the scheduling classification of marijuana, maybe then we can expect a change.
For now, Medicare will not cover the cost of medical marijuana. Any out-of-pocket cost spent on medical cannabis use will not count toward any deductibles under Part B or a Medicare Part D plan.
All insurance carriers in the United States which include Medicare, Medicaid, group plans, the Veterans Administration or Obamacare plans will not be covering medical marijuana. This is because drugs covered by insurance are required to pass FDA approval.
Federal law says cannabis is still illegal and most large insurance companies operate in several states, they don’t want to risk prosecution.
Employees of most large companies that reside in decriminalized states may not be allowed to partake in the federally illegal substance and if they test positive, could face termination.
Federal legalization needs to happen for insurance companies to stop resisting marijuana and Medicare coverage for medicinal cannabis prescriptions.
Recently, the FDA approved the first Marijuana based prescription drug called Epidiolex. It’s for treating patients that are two years or younger that have epilepsy.
In states where medical marijuana is legal, do Medicare and Medicaid cover it?
Since both recreational and medical marijuana is considered an illegal controlled substance under federal law, Medicare and Medicaid won’t cover it. Even in states where it’s legal. For an insurance company to cover anything, it must first be approved by the FDA.
Legal Facts About Cannabis
- Marijuana is a schedule 1 drug
- It is deemed to have no currently acceptable medical use in treatment in the United States.
- A high potential for abuse
- A lack of accepted safety for use
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s website states the agency has not approved cannabis as medicine
- The FDA requires clinical trials in hundreds to thousands of human subjects. This is in order to determine the benefits and risks of a possible medication. Researchers haven’t conducted enough large-scale clinical trials that demonstrate the benefits outweigh the risks in patients it is meant to treat.
- Despite such barriers, there is a map showing 29 states and the District of Columbia that have laws legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.
Medical Marijuana vs Recreational Marijuana
Regardless of a state’s marijuana laws, a health-care provider may not prescribe marijuana for medical use due to the federal prohibitions on prescribing schedule 1 substances. Your doctor may only make a recommendation about its use for a specific medical condition.
Marijuana is a plant that is comprised of over 100 chemicals, known as cannabinoids. Each cannabinoid has a different effect on your body.
The two main chemicals used in the medicinal application of marijuana are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the element that produces the “high”.
- Cannabidiol, or CBD. This is the substance has significant medical benefits but does not make people feel “high”.
Medical Marijuana has a higher CBD content, and is commonly used to treat:
- Appetite loss
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders
- Mental health conditions
- Muscle spasms
- and nausea.
With Medical marijuana, you need to have a qualifying condition to get a medical marijuana recommendation. This recommendation must be renewed regularly.
Recreational Marijuana typically contains lower CBD content than Medicinal Marijuana. Therefore, it can be bought by anyone, you don’t need a recommendation for it.
If it is legal in your state, and you are over the required minimum age, then you won’t need a medical card to buy the recreational variety.
Medical Marijuana Prices
Like many things, the cost of marijuana depends on the quality, amount and convenience. In states where cannabis is legal for adults, prices can vary based on the method of administration. Many seniors with respiratory issues opt for edible types of THC or CBD.
The dispensaries sell candies, lozenges, cookies, brownies, and even chocolates. Some seniors prefer a more natural sense by smoking it and many prefer the convenience of the vapor pens.
The cost also varies by location, and some dispensaries offer discounts for low-income patients who like to use approved medicinal marijuana with a prescription from a doctor.
There are states that offer discounts on the cost to receive a medical marijuana card for low-income individuals. Medical marijuana cards can cost as much as $300-$500 in some states. Some dispensaries will have discounted rates for Medical users, as well as front of the line checkouts.
A Seattle-based firm that gathers data on the legal cannabis industry found that on average those in their fifties spent a median of $753 on marijuana per year. All those baby boomers who tried pot in their hippie days are now taking advantage of changing cannabis laws and better quality of marijuana.
Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary
Once you get your recommendation, you will want to visit the dispensary. It is likely you will be a little apprehensive entering a place like this, as it will probably be out of the ordinary for you.
What you can expect from your first visit to a licensed medicinal cannabis dispensary is this:
- There is usually a security guard at the door of a regulated and licensed dispensary. There are usually heavy, locked doors. Licensed dispensaries are targets for thieves and criminals since they tend to handle vast amounts of cash. Since Marijuana isn’t federally legal customers usually have to pay with cash. Security here is paramount.
- On your initial visit, you will need to have your handwritten recommendation, a copy of which is made and entered along with your paperwork into the system. You will obviously want to have your State issued photo ID or government-issued Passport.
- You will be required to sign in and relax in the waiting room until your name is called. While waiting you can have a look at the menu of products offered.
- When you decide on the cannabis you want and how much you need the staff will help you complete the transaction.
Remember, when you are carrying your marijuana you should always keep a copy of your recommendation or card from your doctor with you always for legal purposes.
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