Medical marijuana is used to treat a variety of healthcare concerns, including symptoms related to cancer treatment, anxiety, insomnia and more. Currently, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule One drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, although some states have moved to legalize or decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts, including amounts prescribed for medical use. What this means is that medical marijuana exists in legal limbo when it comes to prescriptions and coverage by programs like Medicare.
Does Medicare Cover Medical Marijuana?
While it is legal for a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana in some states, the drug is still considered illegal according to the federal government, meaning no federal program can pay toward access to marijuana. In fact, as a Schedule One drug, marijuana is deemed to have no medicinal value and can not even be researched for medicinal properties. As a result, Medicare does not currently provide any coverage benefit for medical marijuana.
With this stated, it’s important to remember that Medicare is a federal program, but it is administered at the state level. As a result, different states may have different rules related to coverage and benefits options. The federal part of the equation sets minimum standards, but states have some room to make changes.
For this reason, it is possible that regulations will change in the future for states where medical marijuana has been legalized. Rules could also change as more states legalize recreational marijuana and the Drug Enforcement Agency is forced to remove the Schedule One classification due to an overwhelming majority of citizens and states ignoring federal law. If this were to happen, then it is possible that federal funds could be used to pay for medical marijuana prescriptions, but that is purely speculative at this point.
Do Medicare Advantage Plans Offer Any Medical Marijuana Benefits?
Although Medicare Advantage plans often provide benefits that extend beyond those of Original Medicare, it is unlikely that a Medicare Advantage plan provider is going to offer anything in the way of medical marijuana benefits. A big part of the reason for this is that insurance providers that offer Medicare Advantage plans still need to operate within the federal guidelines of Original Medicare.
Alternatives to Medical Marijuana
Even though Medicare recipients are not able to utilize the program to pay for medical marijuana currently, there are a number of co-op groups in legal states that assist medical marijuana patients with help defraying out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, you may consider alternative therapies that include medications prescribed by your physician and covered under Medicare Part D.
Many people turn to medical marijuana in order to avoid pharmaceuticals due to negative experiences with medications in the past, but you may be surprised to find out that newer drug therapies are available today that may work better than previous versions, and Medicare Part D will likely cover all or a large portion of the cost. To learn more, speak with your doctor about your unique concerns to see if a medical marijuana alternative is available without the hassles of worrying about whether Medicare will cover the cost due to legal status.