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Does Medicare Cover Medical Marijuana?

More states are legalizing medical marijuana with each passing year. That may make you wonder whether Medicare will cover the cost of medical marijuana in your state.

Federally, marijuana remains a controlled substance. It’s illegal to possess or use the drug under federal law. However, individual states have passed laws allowing distribution and sale within their state boundaries.

Medicare won’t cover medical marijuana because it’s considered a Schedule I controlled substance. In fact, doctors can’t even legally prescribe it.

Marijuana is usually suggested to treat symptoms like pain, nausea, and seizures. If you’ve received a doctor’s recommendation and your state has legalized medical marijuana, read on to learn what you need to know about coverage for medical marijuana, how and why it’s used, and more.

Medicare doesn’t cover drugs that are illegal according to the federal government. This includes marijuana.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t cleared marijuana as a safe and effective treatment for any medical use. That’s true even if you live in a state where it’s medically legal. This is another reason Medicare won’t cover medical marijuana.

What about Medicare prescription drug plans?

Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is health insurance offered by private insurance companies that offers additional coverage beyond original Medicare (parts A and B). Extra coverage may include dental care, vision care, and some prescription drugs.

Medicare Part D is medical insurance that’s also offered through private companies and covers prescription drugs. It doesn’t, however, cover medical marijuana.

Parts C and D could cover the cost of cannabinoid medications that have been approved by the FDA and are available without restriction. This is where some flexibility exists.

Cannabinoid medications, like dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) and Epidiolex, may be covered by Medicare drug plans because they’re FDA approved.

If you’re unsure what your plan covers, contact your Medicare prescription drug plan directly. They can help you understand whether you have coverage for any cannabinoid medication and how to fill a prescription.

Marijuana has been recommended to ease symptoms like:

Medical marijuana is often suggested to treat the symptoms of AIDS or cancer. Research has shown it can boost appetite and reduce nausea. If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), medical marijuana may help ease pain and reduce muscle stiffness.

Cannabinoid-based medications

Dronabinol can be used to ease nausea and vomiting from cancer treatments and increase appetite in people with AIDS.

Epidiolex can help prevent seizures and is used as a treatment for epilepsy. Both of these medications have been approved by the FDA for these uses.

The federal government considers marijuana illegal and holds strict control of cannabis and cannabinoid-based products. That means research on the possible benefits, or even the side effects, of marijuana use is limited.

Without data from clinical research, the FDA won’t be able to update its position on the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana.

In 2020, 33 states and Washington, D.C., have approved the sale and use of medical marijuana. Some of those states have also approved marijuana for recreational use.

In states where only medical marijuana is legal, you’re required to get a medical marijuana card.

The rules and steps for getting a medical marijuana card may vary from state to state, but here are the basics:

  • Make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider. Your doctor will likely give you a full physical exam and review your medical history. If your doctor thinks medical marijuana might help, they may approve you for a medical marijuana card.
  • Renew your marijuana card annually. This may require follow-up visits. Ask your doctor if there are any other additional steps you’ll need to take. Most marijuana cards are registered with the state government.
  • Your doctor can’t prescribe marijuana directly. Federal law prevents doctors from prescribing substances that are illegal. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Instead, your doctor may suggest you use it.

Even though all types of marijuana are illegal at the federal level, the federal government hasn’t taken steps to prosecute those who use it within a state with legal marijuana trade.

However, it’s still possible to face prosecution under federal law under certain circumstances.

Marijuana contains several dozen active chemicals. The two most well known are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD’s potential benefits include improved relaxation, pain reduction, and lowered anxiety. THC is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

In recent years, CBD has been isolated from THC and is sold even in states that don’t allow medical marijuana. In states where medical marijuana is legal, both CBD and THC products are available for a variety of health issues.

Like medical marijuana, individual states have their own legislation regarding legal levels of CBD. Check your state’s legislation for specific information, and be mindful of other state laws when traveling with CBD.

how Medical Marijuana may affect the opioid crisis

Limited research suggests the use of marijuana is reducing the use of opioids and pain medication with high addiction potential. Because marijuana may help relieve some of the same symptoms as opioids, doctors may not prescribe pain medications if marijuana were an option.

If you have a serious illness, marijuana is sometimes used to treat symptoms like pain, nausea, and seizures. If your doctor has diagnosed you with one of these conditions and your state has legalized medical marijuana, here’s what you need to know about using medical marijuana and how much it will cost.