Expand Medical Marijuana Coverage, New York Senate Report Recommends

Expand Medical Marijuana Coverage, New York Senate Report Recommends

Two days after New York assembly members filed legislation that would require certain health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana, a report from members of the state’s Senate is recommending a similar move.

The state should be “expanding health insurance coverage options for medical marijuana as a method to reduce overall usage of opioid medications,” reads one of the 11 recommendations included in the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction’s report released on Wednesday.

On Monday, 18 members of the legislature’s other chamber introduce a bill that would require publicly funded insurance programs to cover medical cannabis.

Touting previous decisions this year to allow doctors to recommend cannabis to people with substance use disorder and for treatment of acute pain, the task force noted that “studies have indicated that medical marijuana can be an effective tool in the fight against opioid overdoses.”

Senators on the task force wrote that New York should “build on the State Workers’ Compensation Board’s decision that coverage for medical marijuana is permissible as it relates to workers’ compensation claims.”

“This means that individuals (or rather their employers) prescribed medical marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act can legally seek payments from their insurer for reimbursement. Insurers offering coverage outside of the workers’ compensation system are not required to provide coverage for medical marijuana, so individuals often cover the cost out-of-pocket, which is expensive. New York must address the disparity between medical marijuana coverage for those injured at work and the lack of coverage for individuals outside the workers’ compensation system.”

To illustrate the need for expanded coverage, the report highlights the story of a nurse who successfully used medical cannabis for pain relief.

“A nurse by profession, Ms. Rouso-Little explained how after years of opioid treatments for her pain, including fentanyl patches and pills which made her sleep for more than 14 hours a day, she switched to medical marijuana,” it says. “Getting off opioids not only helped relieve her pain more effectively, but, she was able to return to work and her life was transformed.”

“I have my life back and am opiate-free.”

The moves to expand medical cannabis come as state officials are considering legalizing marijuana more broadly.

New York Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Be Covered By Public Health Insurance

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Expand Medical Marijuana Coverage, New York Senate Report Recommends

New York Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Be Covered By Public Health Insurance

New York Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Be Covered By Public Health Insurance

Public health insurance programs would be required to cover medical marijuana in New York if a new Assembly bill is enacted.

“Cost is the primary barrier to patient access in New York’s medical marijuana program,” reads a memo attached to the legislation. “Medicaid, other public health plans, and commercial health insurance plans do not cover medical marijuana, forcing patients to pay out of pocket. Some patients begin treatment only to stop due to inability to pay, while others turn to the black market.”

“For thousands of patients, medical marijuana is a safer and more effective medication than other drugs, especially opioids.”

The bill, filed on Monday by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and 17 cosponsors, would add medical cannabis coverage to four publicly funded health programs—Medicaid, Child Health Plus, workers compensation and EPIC, as well as the largely publicly funded Essential Plan.

“For Medicaid and Child Health Plus, there would presumably not be federal matching funds until the federal government changes its policies, but New York’s Medicaid and Child Health Plus programs have always covered people and services for which we do not receive federal match,” the Assembly memo says.

The bill also clarifies that while commercial health insurance programs are not required to cover medical marijuana, they are free to do so. And it would allow state regulators to certify medical marijuana dispensaries as Medicaid providers solely for the purpose of dispensing cannabis.


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If enacted, it would be the latest in a series of steady expansions to the the state’s medical cannabis program. Earlier this year, for example, regulators moved to allow medical marijuana to be recommended for any condition for which opioids would normally be prescribed.

Meanwhile, the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is considering more broadly legalizing marijuana. Officials are conducting a series of listening sessions around the state on the topic, and the governor created a task force to draft legalization legislation that lawmakers can consider in 2019.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

New York Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Be Covered By Public Health Insurance

Too Few Patients Benefit from New York Medical Cannabis Program

Too Few Patients Benefit from New York Medical Cannabis Program

New York’s nascent medical cannabis program launched more than one month ago, and thus far, not much activity has been seen in the media nor in the brick and mortar shops scattered around the state.

According to a report from WNYC , the state has fewer than 400 doctors currently prescribing medical cannabis, but those same doctors have only recommended the program to about 800 people in the entire state. While the number of program-registered doctors in the Empire State is modest at best, that number isn’t the problem.

The number of patients or lack thereof, however, is a major issue. As many advocates warned, the problem stems from New York’s very stubborn marijuana policy which only allows cannabis to be prescribed to those suffering from a list of 10 very chronic illnesses including cancer, HIV, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Those narrow condition parameters automatically limit the potential success for state’s medical cannabis program. Even with these strict limitations, however, the number of qualifying patients should still be in the thousands, not the hundreds. Which raises the bigger question: are these five companies actually doing anything, or just buying time until New York loosens up its parameters.

Last year, the state awarded five organizations permits to cultivate and distribute approved medical cannabis programs in New York. Each of the five companies were licensed to open four dispensing locations and one cultivation center. The process was fast-tracked in the second half of 2015 and some of these dispensaries began opening in early January. The number of registered patients doubled in the first week of the program, but then dwindled.

It’s unclear exactly who these dispensaries, one of which is located in the heart of Manhattan, are serving medical cannabis to –if anyone. It seems more likely that these businesses are just mere placeholders for an industry that may or may not matriculate in time.

A plan that serves 400 people out of a population of 8 million people cannot be considered successful. Right now, odds remain high that would-be qualifying patients in New York are finding medicine on the black market.

If or when the list of qualifying conditions may be expanded in New York is unknown, and until the state finds a way to address the program’s issues, New York will remain nothing but a cautionary tale as to how not to roll out a medical marijuana program.

Bernie Canter

New York Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Doubles in One Week

New York Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Doubles in One Week

One hundred sixty-five patients have now qualified for medical cannabis in the state of New York, according to the New York State Health Department.

The number, while modest, represents a doubling of the total number of medical cannabis patients in the state in the past week. According to operators, patients have been seen at every one of the state’s eight dispensaries to have opened since the program’s launch.

The number of doctors participating in the program has also jumped, with 225 doctors now having completed the state-required training. That number is up from the roughly 150 who had completed the training last week. Yet some would-be patients, complaining of a lack of access to participating physicians, still have yet to meet with a certified doctor.

By New York law, the cannabis being offered may only be produced and distributed in pill or liquid form; it may not be distributed as a dry cannabis flowers. Still, several of the state’s patients have expressed approval over the state’s newly-established medical cannabis program.

“When you’re as sick as I am, you’ll try anything,”

said Brittany Barger (photo below), a 27-year-old sufferer of ovarian cancer whose condition has caused her to lose 100 pounds. “With this, I’m hoping to have more good days, and be able to check some more stuff on my bucket list.”

brittany new york(AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz)

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