Healthcare Provider Ordered to Cover Medical Marijuana
In a potentially precedent-setting case, a New Jersey administrative law judge has ruled an insurance company must pay for medical marijuana for a man who was injured on the job in 2014. The man, Andrew Watson, developed neuropathic pain in his left hand after an accident involving a power saw. He demanded his health insurance reimburse the costs of the medical cannabis obtained over the course of three months after the injury, as well as a promise to pay future treatment.
Physician Stated Cannabis Was Appropriate Treatment
Judge Ingrid L. French made the ruling after hearing testimony from both Watson and a Cherry Hill psychiatrist/neurologist, who stated that medical cannabis was beneficial because of its ability to reduce the use of opioid painkillers as well as its side effects.
“The evidence presented in these proceedings show that the petitioner's 'trial' use of medicinal marijuana has been successful,” stated Judge French in her ruling. “While the court is sensitive to the controversy surrounding the medicinal use of marijuana, whether or not it should be prescribed for a patient in a state where it is legal to prescribe it is a medical decision that is within the boundaries of the laws in the state."
Ruling Could Be Positive Move For Healthcare Companies As Well As Medical Marijuana Patients
The case is considered of great importance as it is the first time that a health insurance provider has been compelled to cover medical marijuana. Typical cannabis patients must pay for their own medicine, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month. While the ruling only affects one patient’s case, it could influence others. Additionally, it may actually benefit the healthcare industry overall.
"We believe this will offer very powerful cost savings with respect to the entire workers' compensation industry in New Jersey,” said Philip Faccenda, Watson’s attorney. “More costly pharmaceuticals can be reduced and medical marijuana would be a less expensive treatment modality.”