Even though many seniors use medical cannabis to treat a range of conditions, experts say it may take some time before Medicare begins to pay for the drug because of conflicting legal requirements, ambiguous safety standards and challenging rulemaking procedures. According to a survey conducted last year by the Medicare Plans Resource Center, an association that offers advice and information on Medicare, one in every five Medicare patients uses medical cannabis.
Furthermore, almost 25% have previously used it, and two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries believe that the program ought to cover it. However, Medicare doesn’t, since medical cannabis is not legal in all states and has not received FDA approval. According to a study that was published in the Cannabinoid and Cannabis Research journal in April last year, 60% of patients who purchased medical cannabis were 50 years of age or older.
Patients often pay up to $20 per gram for cannabis plant buds and $5 per dose for edibles. This amounts to about $567 and $142 per ounce, respectively, a price most patients, even in states where medical cannabis is legal, cannot afford.
Why, then, does Medicare still not cover medical marijuana?
Medicare coverage for medical marijuana is obstructed by two major problems. For starters, the DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.
Second, for a drug to be covered by Medicare, it must receive FDA clearance for both safety and efficacy. The FDA has authorized the sale of one marijuana-derived product and three synthetic marijuana-related products for prescription use, but it has not authorized the marketing of marijuana for medical use. Considering that medical marijuana is legal in 37 states, could private insurers that provide Medicare Advantage cover it?
That’s unlikely, according to Marijuana Moment senior editor and reporter Kyle Jaeger. Most health insurers will refuse to cover marijuana as long as it is still classified as a schedule I drug, similar to banking institutions that have been hesitant to provide financial services to cannabis businesses.
Additionally, private insurers look to the FDA for directions on which medications to cover. Insurers need data to show that cannabis-based treatments have outcomes that are comparable to, if not superior to, those of the currently available options that they cover. However, this is made difficult due to the open-market dispensary system, where patients are allowed to purchase any product.
The system will need to be altered for it to be effective; patients cannot simply buy anything they want and expect insurance companies to cover it.
The contradictions between state cannabis laws and regulations at the federal level are in some way holding back the growth of the cannabis industry together with the affiliated industries that support the marijuana industry. For example, one can only guess at what the growth trajectory of entities such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) would have been had marijuana been legal federally.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/ACTX
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