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Medicare & Medical Marijuana

doctor talking about medical cannabisMedicare does not cover medical marijuana. It does not matter that it has been legalized in your state or that your doctor wrote you a prescription. Medicare is absolutely not going to pay for medical marijuana.

Why is this? Many states have legalized cannabis (a scientific term used for marijuana). It has been prescribed for patients suffering from many different conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, seizures, anxiety, and depression. Treatments utilizing the active ingredients of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are more and more common.

The fact is that marijuana is still not federally legal. It is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are “substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” as defined by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. These substances are not going to be funded by Medicaid or Medicare, both of which are federal services.

What’s more, Schedule I drugs are banned from receiving federal or state research grants to study their efficacy as medical treatments. Because Medicare only provides verified, researched medical treatments, that means that medical marijuana faces a major hurdle even if it is federally legalized. The process for approval of drugs through the Food and Drug Administration, one of the requirements, takes years and extensive studies.

Even if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Plan C), you are not going to get coverage. The same is true of Medigap insurance. Insurance companies are very reluctant to cover medical marijuana for many reasons, from fear of federal persecution to uncertainty about its efficacy.

Is any of this likely to change soon? While many states may legalize medical marijuana, it is doubtful that the federal government will change the classification any time soon. The politics and bureaucracy surrounding the issue are complex and not currently friendly to legalization or even changing it from a Schedule I drug.

It’s worth noting that does not even address the question. If your doctor has prescribed (if possible) medical marijuana as a treatment, you will have to pay full price from legally licensed dispensaries.

Some of these facilities in some states offer discounts for low-income patients who have a prescription. In some states, low-income prescription patients can get a medicinal marijuana card, which can run as much as $300 to $500. There are options to make it more affordable, depending on where you live, but unfortunately, Medicare is not one of them

There are many difficult or confusing questions when it comes to picking the right Medicare plan. Make sure to contact your BGA Insurance Agent with any questions that you have – it’s free!