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Medical Marijuana – What You Should Consider In ERISA Plans

With more and more states legalizing the use of medical marijuana, many people are turning to it for relief from a wide range of different medical ailments. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many people find relief from its use, and a lot of doctors are prescribing it for their patients, many insurance plans in the United States don’t currently cover medical cannabis.

Why More And More People Are Turning To Medical Marijuana

Medical cannabis is becoming quite popular, and many people are turning to it due to the relief it can provide for a plethora of different medical ailments.

Some of the many conditions medical marijuana is used to treat include:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Effects of chemotherapy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • PTSD
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Multiple sclerosis

And, while medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states, it’s really hard to find a health insurance plan that will cover it, at least in the United States.

4 Reasons Why Health Insurance Plans Might Not Cover Medical Marijuana

  1. Medical marijuana has not been approved by the FDA.
    Many health insurance plans, even ones protected under ERISA, have provisions that state they can only cover drugs that have been approved by the FDA.
  2. Cannabis, even medical cannabis is considered a “Schedule I drug” under the Controlled Substances Act.
    The federal government defines drugs in this category asdrugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Schedule I drugs also carry the harshest range of criminal penalties. Because medical marijuana falls into this drug category, most health insurance companies don’t want to offer coverage for it.

    Additionally, the government puts only the most dangerous drugs into the Schedule I category. This is due to their “potential for severe psychological or physical dependence.” And, while medical marijuana has been shown to really help people suffering from certain ailments, it’s still considered “addictive,” which allows the health insurance industry to not consider it as “medical care eligible for health insurance.”
  3. Internal Revenue Code Section 213 does not consider medical marijuana a recognized medicine.
    Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code makes medical cannabis ineligible for a federal tax deduction because it’s not recognized as a medicine. So, health insurance companies do not want to cover it because they won’t get a tax break. 
  4. Marijuana is still considered illegal.
    Medical marijuana might be legal in 33 states, but at the end of the day, it’s not considered legal on a federal level. So, if a health insurance plan chooses to cover it, that insurance company may face tax consequences. 

    Have more questions about employee health insurance and what certain plans cover? We can help. MBA Benefit Administrators provide all types of employee benefit plans for organizations across the nation. If you are interested in learning more, please call us at 1-800-877-3727 or fill out our Contact form.

Sources:

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/medical-marijuana-coverage-employee-health-plans.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq#1-3

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/availability-medical-insurance-coverage-medical-cannabis-patients

https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/why-your-health-insurance-wont-cover-medical-marijuana.html

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/d3wqdk/medical-marijuana-health-insurance

https://vireohealth.com/ny/health-insurance-medical-cannabis/