Health Insurers Not Receptive to Medical Marijuana

April 7, 2011 – PHOENIX — Most health insurance companies are not willing to talk about medical marijuana, although it’s licensed in some form in 14 states, with Arizona becoming the 15th next week.

Medical marijuana has been controversial from the beginning and that hasn’t changed.

Several major insurers — Aetna, Humana, Cigna, Health Net of Arizona — would not respond to requests about whether they will or will not cover patients’ costs of medical marijuana.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona did.

“Medical marijuana will not be covered,” medical director Dr. Dan Aspery said emphatically.

“Medical marijuana is not FDA approved for any medical condition, therefore it becomes an exclusion to the benefit plan and won’t be covered for that reason,” Aspery said.

He said if laws change, Blue Cross/Blue Shield might take a look at covering medical marijuana. One of the things it would look at, he said, is the cost of implementing coverage and how it would affect the premiums that customers pay. He said adding benefits generally makes premiums go up.

Interest in the medical marijuana program has surged among patients and job seekers, according to Jason Reis, director of the Arizona Medical Certification Center in Scottsdale.

He said he’s received a lot of inquiries and he thinks medical pot could have a huge impact on Arizona’s struggling economy.

“In four days, I had 500 resumes and they were all qualified in the medical industry,” he said.

With 124 dispensaries and other pot-related businesses opening, medical marijuana could bring in $40 million to the state’s economy, Reis estimated, saying that means jobs.

“We have people working in this industry who are now making money and they are not collecting unemployment any more,” said Reis. “I think it’s a very, very good thing for Arizona.”

Reis said, “Maybe, in a year’s time when everyone understands the kind of revenue that it’s bringing into the state, it will be more accepted than it is today.”

He expects more than 3,000 people to attend Arizona’s first medical marijuana convention in Glendale April 14. Source.

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