As the legalization of Marijuana grows, the government of the United States will continue to face unanswered questions pertaining to many relevant issues. An important matter that requires an urgent analysis and solution, among a sea of questions, is that of coverage.
Federal Health Care Programs
Under President Obama’s leadership, the U.S. government has taken health insurance to new heights. Dubbed the “Health Insurance Marketplace,” a priority to help uninsured individuals find health coverage is underway, calling for all to apply by the March 31, 2014 deadline. While there have been many obstacles since its launch, citizens who were never before able to obtain health insurance can be covered. Medicaid, Medicare, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and more are being coordinated so that more people can have better and affordable care.
According to the official U.S. government site for Medicare, prescription drugs are categorized into “tiers” called formularies that are used to determine the cost of a specific drug. Pharmaceutical companies make a lucrative profit because the drugs they develop are often covered, either partially or in full. Where there is coverage, there is increasing accessibility, and so goes the cause and effect of profitability and mutual benefit for governments and corporations. Additionally, if a particular medication falls under the “Medication Therapy Management” program, even the perquisite like automatic refill mail order service is included on top of full coverage!
As many as twenty states, plus the District of Columbia, considered legal marijuana in 2013. Currently, thirteen states have pending legislation to legalize medical marijuana. As medical marijuana becomes legalized in more states, will Medicare provide similar coverage as per prescription drugs of pharmaceutical corporations?
Although the states of Connecticut, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin have implemented laws that allowed medical marijuana to be prescribed by physicians, this is only symbolic since each State Attorney’s offices continues to view marijuana as a “substance” per Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. In other words, “growing, distribution, or possession of marijuana” is a federal crime “regardless” of state laws.
There is perhaps light at the end of the tunnel, though. On August 29, 2013, a memo issued by the Department of Justice clarified that the federal government would “rely on” the local governments to enforce narcotics law.
At this time in the United States, not one federally managed health care program provides coverage for medicinal marijuana. So long as marijuana continues to remain in the “substance” list in Schedule I, it will continue to be viewed as an illegal product under federal law. Coverage, therefore, does not even play into the question when crime is the subject at hand. Marijuana must first be Federally legalized before coverage or subsidies of prescribed marijuana will be considered.
Photo by The Equinest, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license