Now that medical marijuana is allowed in 29 states and the District of Columbia, benefit managers are likely to get questioned about coverage for this treatment under the medical plan. In an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Mercer clinical consultant Dr. Mary Kay O’Neill points out that “The current plethora of different state and local laws and regulations, coupled with uncertainty at the federal level, does not make for easy administration of medical marijuana reimbursement. It is difficult to come up with policies for national employers, who are often reluctant to administer a patchwork of benefits.”
The core of the issue is that marijuana is classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug. In other words, it’s in same category as heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote. Because of this, it has been challenging to fund and produce research on the efficacy of medical marijuana, which is a prerequisite to being included in a prescription drug formulary. However, the current opiate addiction crisis may lead to greater openness to alternative pain medications that present less danger of overdosing.
In addition to the legal, administrative and safety issues, employers will want to know if this treatment will deliver better outcomes, faster return to work and lower cost compared to other therapies. This is an issue for employers to keep an eye on as marijuana growers multiply and invest in lobbying.