Will insurers cover medical marijuana?

Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota this month approved initiatives legalizing the medical use of marijuana. A total of 28 states already or will soon permit medical use of the drug, while eight states have approved it for recreational use, according to The New York Times.

As more physicians in these states write prescriptions for marijuana, questions on whether health insurers should cover expenses for the drug have risen to the forefront.

A primary aspect of the quandary is that scientific evidence is lacking on the benefits of marijuana or the dozens of cannabinoids found in the plant, according to the report.

Typically, health insurers limit coverage of marijuana-related drugs for FDA-approved uses. The FDA has only approved a synthetic version of a cannabinoid and a similar drug for a narrow range of uses, including treatment of nausea in chemotherapy patients or to stimulate the appetites of patients with AIDS.

However, state medical marijuana laws permit physicians to prescribe marijuana for patients with "debilitating" conditions, which could include glaucoma, cancer and chronic pain, according to the report.

Patients usually pay for the drug out of pocket and several states have exempted workplace compensation insurers from covering the costs of medical marijuana. However, as a result of recent court rulings in New Mexico, workplace insurers must cover marijuana-based treatments if they are recommended by a physician, according to the report. Similar rulings have been issued out of courts in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan.

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