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Medical marijuana paid for by Medicaid? New proposal could make that reality in NY

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The New York Assembly Health Committee passed a bill, introduced by Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, that would authorize Medicaid and other public health insurance providers to pay for patients’ medical marijuana treatment. Co-sponsored by Dr. Anna R. Kelles (D-125) and Donna A. Lupardo (D-123), the bill (A04713) seeks to amend the public health and social services law, requiring public health insurance to cover medical marijuana as a “prescription drug,” “covered drug,” or “healthcare service.”

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The legislation, if passed, would allow state health insurance providers, including state Medicaid, Child Health Plus, workers compensation, and EPIC programs, to cover medical marijuana from certified dispensaries, regardless of the program’s federal funding status. Private health insurers would also be allowed to pay for medical marijuana, but it would not be mandated.

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Currently, Medicaid pays for medical office visits for medical marijuana, but patients must pay out of pocket for their medical marijuana. The bill’s justification stated that “For thousands of patients, medical marijuana is a safer and more effective medication than other drugs, especially opioids. While it can be prohibitively expensive for many patients, especially in the absence of insurance coverage, it may often be less expensive than what their insurance coverage pays for other medications. Cost is the primary barrier to patient access in New York’s medical marijuana program.”

The bill was passed to the Ways & Means Committee after being approved by the Health Committee. If passed by the Ways & Means Committee, it will advance to the Assembly floor for a vote. In the state Senate, the companion bill S2568 was introduced by Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D, WF-56).