A Massachusetts company that bills itself as “the first and only licensed provider of psychedelic health plans” announced on Tuesday that it will cover psilocybin-assisted therapy in states where it’s legal.
“Given the evidence of effectiveness seen in clinical trials in the U.S. and elsewhere, we have decided to give our employers the option of including psilocybin-assisted therapy in their benefit plans,” said Sherry Rais, CEO and co-founder of Enthea, a third-party health insurance benefits administrator. “Oregon and Colorado have already legalized the use of psilocybin, and we expect others to do so next year.”
Enthea announced earlier this year that it would cover ketamine treatment nationwide. The nonprofit previously worked with soap company Dr. Bronner’s last year to offer psychedelic-assisted therapy to workers through their employee health plans.
Enthea said this week that it plans to expand its standards of care to include adult use of psilocybin “in combination with psychotherapeutic support.” The company expects to publish the change to its provider network sometime in the first quarter of next year.
The goal, Enthea said, is to be able to cover psilocybin-assisted treatment by mid-2024.
“We have had our eye on the potential benefits of psilocybin therapy since we founded our company,” Dan Rome, Enthea’s co-founder and chief medical officer, said in a press release. “We are very encouraged by published results as well as what we hear from practicing therapists, and are confident that this brings an important new option for combating mental illness.”
Enthea has said its services will expand further to include therapies with other substances, such as MDMA, “as they are approved.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated MDMA as a “breakthrough therapy” in 2017, and the substance is now on track for FDA consideration next year following successful Phase 3 clinical trials published in September in the journal Nature that found that MDMA-facilitated talk therapy reduced symptoms in patients with moderate to severe PTSD.
Two other companies, Bennabis Health and CannaCoverage, also teamed up earlier this year to offer medical marijuana coverage as part of their workplace benefits packages, a perk meant to reduce out-of-pocket costs for employees who use cannabis therapeutically.
While Oregon and Colorado have already passed laws allowing therapeutic use of psilocybin, other states are considering similar reforms. In California, for example, a Democratic senator said this month that he’ll be filing a revised psychedelics bill next year alongside an Assembly Republican that will focus on providing regulated therapeutic access to certain psychedelics.
It’s a more limited bill than the one vetoed this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has touted the “profound” therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics to treat severe mental health conditions but vetoed SB 58 because it would have removed criminal penalties for possession and cultivation without first implementing guidelines for regulated access.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healy (D) recently filed a bill to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for military veterans. Campaign organizers in the state recently said they believe they’ve collected enough valid signatures to force lawmakers to consider a psychedelics legalization initiative—the first option for the reform before activists move to put it on the state’s 2024 ballot.
Bipartisan lawmakers in Wisconsin, meanwhile have introduced a new bill to create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.
At the federal level, lawmakers met Tuesday for the first-ever congressional hearing on psychedelics, with testimony focusing on how substances like psilocybin and MDMA can aid therapy for military veterans’ facing mental health challenges.
In a recent Harvard University-hosted panel featuring former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials, speakers broadly agreed that psychedelic substances like MDMA and psilocybin hold powerful potential to help treat PTSD and curb suicide rates in service members, but they cautioned against hasty, unsupervised use of psychedelics given the possibility for further harms.
Earlier this month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it’s seeking proposals to develop psychedelics into treatments for substance use disorder (SUD), with plans to issue $2 million in grant money toward the research projects during fiscal year 2025.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.