New York Senate Approves Bill To Mandate Medical Marijuana Health Insurance Coverage

Marijuana Moment

The New York Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would require public health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana expenses and clarify that private insurers are allowed to do the same.

The legislation, sponsored by Diane Savino (D), moved through two committees before passing the Senate by a vote of 53-10, and it’s now been transmitted to the Assembly, where it awaits action in the Ways & Means Committee.

SB S8837 would amend state public health and social services statutes to address one of the most significant barriers to patient access to medical cannabis: the out-of-pocket cost of the medicine.

It would achieve that by defining medical marijuana as a “prescription drug,” “covered drug” or “health care service” under the relevant codes so that public health insurance providers, including Medicaid and workers compensation, would be mandated to provide coverage. For private, commercial insurers, however, cannabis coverage would be optional.

“For thousands of patients, medical marijuana is a safer and more effective medication than other drugs, especially opioids,” a justification memo attached to the bill says. “While it can be prohibitively expensive for many patients, especially in the absence of insurance coverage, it may often be less expensive than what their insurance coverage pays for other medications.”

Responding to concerns from fellow lawmakers on the floor ahead of the vote about the potential costs of the legislation, Savino said that “it is time for New York State to lead the way on this issue.”

“Some state is going to have to force this issue,” she said. “I believe that our state is the one that should lead the way on this.”

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New York Senate Approves Bill To Mandate Medical Marijuana Health Insurance Coverage

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