Will Medical Marijuana Ever Be Covered By Medicare?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: There are certainly no shortage of issues as we head into the 2016 elections, some of which include terrorism/national security, U.S. economic growth, prescription drug inflation, and of course marijuana.

Over the past two decades we’ve seen a rapid shift in the way the American public views the currently illicit drug. In 1995 there wasn’t a single state that approved marijuana for medicinal use, and just a quarter of respondents in national polls shared a favorable view of the drug. Today, there are 23 states that allow marijuana to be prescribed by physicians for medicinal use and four additional states that are experimenting with recreational use for adults. Furthermore, slightly over half of all respondents in major national polls now have a favorable opinion on marijuana.

In short, there’s no reason why marijuana shouldn’t be a hot topic in the 2016 elections.

Medical marijuana could save the U.S. healthcare system money
But, the marijuana debate is about more than just gaining access to recreational marijuana — it’s about granting access to chronic or terminally ill patients that could benefit from marijuana. If marijuana were legalized across the United States for medical use it could, in theory, save the health insurance industry a substantial amount of money.

As we looked at last year, a clinical review published by Dr. Kathryn Hahn of Oregon State University’s College of Pharmacy in 2011 suggested that drug diversion — the act of using prescription drugs in a recreational manner — costs the health insurance industry $72.5 billion a year, including $25 billion in costs to the private insurance market. At the heart of these costs are opioid-based prescriptions which are being abused and could potentially be replaced by marijuana, thus reducing costs by practically eliminating the chance of an overdose or complications.