The New York Senate has approved a bill to impose health insurance on medical marijuana

The New York Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would require public health insurance programs to cover the cost of medical marijuana, and clarified that private insurers have the right to do the same.

Legislation sponsored by Diane Savino (D) went through two committees before moving to the Senate with 53-10 votes, and has now been submitted to the Assembly, where it awaits action in committee by means and means.

SB S8837 will change the status of public health and social services to address one of the most significant barriers to patients’ access to medical cannabis: the cost of the drug out of pocket.

This would be achieved by defining medical marijuana as a “prescription medicine”, “covered medicine” or “health service” according to the relevant codes, so that public health insurance providers, including Medicaid benefits and workers, are empowered to provide coverage. . For private, commercial insurers, however, cannabis coverage would be optional.

“For thousands of patients, medical marijuana is a safer and more effective drug than other drugs, especially opioids,” said in a explanatory note attached to the bill. “Although it can be prohibitively expensive for many patients, especially in the absence of insurance coverage, it can often be cheaper than what their insurance coverage pays for other medicines.

Responding to concerns from fellow lawmakers ahead of the vote on the potential costs of the legislation, Savino said “it is time for New York State to lead the way.”

“Some state will have to raise this issue,” she said. “I believe that our country is the one to lead this.

If passed, the public health insurance programs that would be the subject of the proposed policy change include Medicaid, Child Health Plus, Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage for the Elderly (EPIC), Essential Plan programs and workers’ compensation.

“Price is the main barrier to patient access to the medical marijuana program in New York. “Medicaid, other public health plans and commercial health insurance plans do not cover medical marijuana, which forces patients to pay out of pocket,” the statement continued. “Some patients start treatment only to stop due to inability to pay, while others turn to the black market. The efforts of registered organizations to offer discounts have helped, but are insufficient for many low-income patients. “

Although “there will probably be no federal overlapping funds until the federal government changes its policies” for programs such as Medicaid and Child Health Plus, the note says that “the Medicaid and Child Health Plus programs in New York have always covered people and services for which we do not get a federal match. “

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In addition, the law will allow the state health commissioner to certify medical marijuana dispensaries as Medicaid suppliers, as long as they sell only medical cannabis and not other drugs.

The Fiscal Impact Statement notes that there will be “significant” cost savings if the bill is passed “to the extent that medical marijuana replaces other prescription drugs.” And several studies have found that many people have used cannabis as a substitute for various prescription drugs, such as opioid-based painkillers.

If adopted by the Assembly and signed by the governor, the bill will take effect next April. But for 2022, the normal legislative session is scheduled to end on Thursday, which means it will probably have to be reintroduced unless it is convened in a special session.

Similar legislation was introduced in the Assembly in 2018, but did not go beyond the committee.

Outside of New York, there was pressure from New Mexico’s largest marijuana company earlier this year to insure insurers for medical cannabis, which she said is required by law, but so far the effort has not affected policy change.

With regard to workers’ compensation, there have been various lawsuits in which employees have sought relief from their employers to cover the cost of medical cannabis for injuries they have suffered on the spot. Two Minnesota lawsuits have reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Justice Department has asked judges to dismiss the case last month. However, part of the department’s reasoning was that it believes that the issue will be better addressed by the executive or the legislature.

The North Carolina Senate has approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana

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