NY Insurers Not Planning To Cover Medical Marijuana

NEW YORK: With about four months left before the state’s medical marijuana program is slated to become fully operational, many insurers have no plans to cover the Schedule I drug under their current policies.

Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield, one of Western New York’s largest insurers, only covers drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration under its current policy, a spokesman told POLITICO New York.

An Aetna spokesman echoed the sentiment, adding that the insurance company already covers Marinol, an FDA-approved drug that contains some of the same elementsas marijuana and is used to treat nausea.

Emblem Health, one of the state’s largest insurance providers, also has no plans to cover medical marijuana. Medicaid will not cover it either.

Health Insurers Just Say No To Marijuana Coverage

CALIFORNIA:  Patients who use medical marijuana for pain and other chronic symptoms can take an unwanted hit: Insurers don’t cover the treatment, which costs as much as $1,000 a month.

Marijuana in recent years has gained increased mainstream acceptance for its ability to boost appetite, dull pain and reduce seizures in people with a wide range of disorders and diseases, including epilepsy and cancer.

Still, insurers are reluctant to cover it, in part because of conflicting laws. Although 21 U.S. states have approved it for medical use, the drug still is outlawed by the federal government and most states.

But perhaps the biggest hurdle for insurers is its lack of approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Major insurers generally don’t cover treatments that are not approved by the FDA, and that approval depends on big clinical studies that measure safety, effectiveness and side effects.