Two days after New York assemblymembers 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.