Medical cannabis itself is not covered by any New Jersey health plan. Medical cannabis patients weren't the only ones who celebrated the state Supreme Court decision last month requiring a construction company to pay the bill for an injured employee's medication. Don Parisi, co-owner of Bennabis, a New Jersey-based company that aims to be the first in the country to offer health coverage to patients who need help paying for their cannabis, called the decision “a trigger for us. Even with the Supreme Court's favorable decision, patients receiving workers' compensation still face financial barriers if they have to pay first and then seek reimbursement from their employer, which is how the agreement was described in court records between Vincent Hager, the injured worker and the plaintiff, and his former employer, M&K Construction.
Bennabis is working to change his mind and alleviate reluctance by sharing studies such as the recent one co-authored by William Paterson University professor of economics, Rahi Abouk. Based on nine years of workers' compensation claims, employees age 40 and older filed 20% fewer claims in states with medical marijuana programs. Claims data showed that employees who used cannabis for pain treatment submitted fewer requests, the study said. The driving force behind the company's founding was to create insurance options for medical cannabis consumers, said Parisi, a board member of one of New Jersey's original producers and retailers, Compassionate Care Foundation, before it was purchased by Acreage Holdings.
Through this experience, Parisi said he saw the transformative benefits of the plant in the lives of many patients. I knew I wanted to see more people reap the benefits of relieving pain and reducing muscle spasms, and they could only do so if they could afford it. Parisi and his partners imagine operating in two ways. Bennabis would sell a membership or subscription directly to patients who would qualify for dispensary discounts, just as AAA offers discounts at retailers such as LensCrafters, Parisi said.
The more complicated but ultimately more comprehensive plan would involve employer-sponsored health plans agreeing to cover medical cannabis, with patients sharing part of the cost, he said. According to the New Jersey Health Plan Association, last year 3.36 million people in the state were covered by self-insured employer plans. This story first appeared on NJ Cannabis Insider. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission is expected to issue new medical marijuana dispensary licenses in the coming months after a series of court cases were resolved earlier this year.
That said, doctors can help you get your medical marijuana card or recommend medical marijuana as a treatment in states where it's legal. The ratio of 5,800 patients per dispensary is among the highest of the 34 states with active medical marijuana programs, leading to supply and demand problems that patients say have left them empty-handed or punched since the first sales occurred nearly a decade ago. Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, health coverage providers have their hands tied when it comes to providing insurance coverage for medical marijuana as a prescription drug.