Taxpayers could soon be on the hook to help low-income New Yorkers score medical marijuana, thanks to a bill that would force public health-insurance plans to cover it.
Patients in the state currently have to pay out of pocket for their prescription pot.
But state Sen. Diane Savino (D-SI/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and pushing a doobie-ous scheme that would require government health-insurance programs such as Medicaid, Child Health Plus, the Essential Plan, Elderly Pharmaceutical Coverage and workers’ compensation to cover weed as they would any other prescription.
“It’s unfair not to cover marijuana when opioids, OxyContin and Ambien are covered,” Savino told The Post. “We have to push the envelope.”
The lawmakers claim it will help battle the opioid epidemic ravaging the state. “For thousands of patients, medical marijuana is a safer and more effective medication than other drugs, especially opioids,” Gottfried argued.
But both lawmakers acknowledge the state would likely have to draw from the public purse to cover their plan.
The federal government likely wouldn’t provide financial support for the program because authorities in Washington still classify weed as an illegal drug.
The bill also wouldn’t require private insurers to offer coverage, although Savino says she would support an amendment to mandate that they do. “Insurance companies are leery because the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug,” she said.
Medical marijuana in New York can come in a variety of forms, including tablets and oils that can be vaped, but it can’t be smoked under the current program, which was launched in 2016.
Public health experts are turning to marijuana to help cancer patients and others manage chronic pain as a nonaddictive alternative to opioids, which have fueled an overdose epidemic across the country.
Nearly 1,500 people died in the five boroughs last year because of overdoses — five times as many people who died in homicides — figures from the city’s Health Department show. Opioids were linked to more than 80 percent of those overdose deaths.
There are 98,101 New Yorkers registered in the medical-marijuana program, but a study found one-third of the patients visited a dispensary only once for weed treatment.
New York lawmakers are under increasing pressure to act as New Jersey quickly moves toward full-scale legalization, which could be in place by next year.
Lawmakers in Trenton are expected to begin debating the matter on Monday, although Democratic lawmakers and Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy are still at loggerheads over who would oversee the budding business — the executive branch or a five-person commission.
Source: 420 Intel
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