The six states where courts or legislatures have said insurers must reimburse medical marijuana for injured workers have yet to provide guidance on how to do so, preventing payers from using the federal banking system to cover costs of a federally illegal substance.
“Among the first questions I get is, ‘How? I have no idea how we’re going to pay for this,'” said Julie Schum, Chicago-based partner at Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer PA, who covered legal issues surrounding medical marijuana in a session Tuesday at Riskworld, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Atlanta.
“There are some smart ways to make payments on this, but you have to be very careful because you also don̵7;t want to look like you’re giving cash to commit a federal crime,” Schum said.
She said she’s heard anecdotally of insurance companies issuing prepaid cards to give to injured workers to cover their costs — without specifically saying medical marijuana. The proposed Safe Banking Act, which would clear red tape for refunds, has stalled in Washington, she said.
Adequate dosage is another conundrum.
“Unfortunately, the states that have mandated it haven’t actually given us any guidance on what they’re requiring other than the issuance of medical cannabis,” Schum said. “They leave it entirely in the hands of the doctors.”
Marijuana prescriptions are also typically vague, which increases an insurer’s overall liability in claims handling, she said.
“Most of the time, it doesn’t give you much guidance on what to buy at the pharmacy,” she said. “They basically just tell you to ingest enough cannabis to get X doses per week, and off you go. The pharmacy is a Candyland of options for you to choose from.”