New York Bill Advances to Cover Medical Cannabis Under State-Funded Insurance Programs
NEW YORK– New York state lawmakers are pushing forward with a measure that could bring significant relief to patients seeking medical cannabis treatment. The proposed bill, which advanced easily out of a state Assembly committee hearing, would authorize state-funded insurance payments to cover the cost of medical cannabis for eligible patients.
The measure, identified as A04713, is backed by Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and has a companion bill in the state Senate, identified as S02568, which is yet to have a hearing. If successful, the legislation would allow Medicaid patients and others who rely on state-funded insurance programs, including Child Health Plus, workers compensation, and EPIC programs, to have their medical cannabis costs fully covered.
The bill would add marijuana to the state law category of “prescription drug,” “covered drug,” and “healthcare service” for purposes of Medicaid and state insurance reimbursements. It would also permit private insurers to reimburse patients for medical cannabis but would not require coverage by private insurance companies.
This move would significantly improve access to medical cannabis treatment for those who currently have to pay out of pocket, as nearly all medical marijuana patients do nationwide. As of March 1, 2023, New York state had over 121,000 registered medical marijuana patients, according to the state Office of Cannabis Management.
The Assembly bill sailed through the Assembly Health Committee on an 18-7 vote, the Ithaca Journal reported. The bill has now been sent to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, and if successful there, it’ll be forwarded to the full Assembly floor for a vote.
With a number of other states having already legalized the use of medical cannabis, the move by New York lawmakers signals a shift in the state’s approach to cannabis legislation. In recent years, the state has loosened restrictions on cannabis use, including the legalization of adult-use cannabis in 2021. However, access to medical marijuana has remained limited to those who can afford it. This proposed legislation, if passed, could help to level the playing field and provide greater access to medical cannabis treatment for those in need.
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