Although medical marijuana is approved in 23 states, it is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug federally. The difficulty with insurance companies covering medical marijuana is simply that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has multiple obstacles in the way as far as testing and research are concerned. Obtaining necessary approvals may come in time, but until marijuana is approved by the FDA and downgraded to a Schedule 2 drug, insurance companies will not cover it as a medication.
Research and testing need to be completed in order to have a medication approved by the FDA. One issue is that health insurance companies do not see the medical benefits of marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has to approve a permit for researchers to conduct studies to provide concrete evidence for the necessary approvals to take place, reports HuffPost.
Another condition of these permits being issued is compliance when it comes to the safe storage of the drug. A definitive explanation of the intended studies must also be presented to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as an additional measure for approval.
For studies to be completed researchers have to provide a secure location where the consumption of marijuana is acceptable. Former University of Arizona researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, says that “The word ‘marijuana’ is just so politically radioactive.”
One reason that advocates want to see marijuana covered by health insurance providers is simply due to the cost. Some patients spend upwards of $1,000 per month or more on medical marijuana. Many patients treat multiple health conditions with marijuana. Depending on the dispensary, an eighth, or 3.5 grams, costs between $30 and $60. For some patients, with more debilitating conditions, this amount lasts just a single day.
The American Medical Association (AMA) is in support of changing the classification status of marijuana so that necessary research can be completed to potentially aid in health insurance companies covering medical marijuana. This, however, is no guarantee that insurers will cover medical marijuana even after viable proof is submitted.