The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in April 2016. With the passage of that law, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania joined the growing list of states breaking rank with the Federal government. Federal law still prohibits marijuana use even for medical purposes, so insurers and others responsible for the payment of medical services risk breaking the law if they cover such costs. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania law states that insurers, including Workers’ Compensation, are not required to pay the costs of medical marijuana, nor does it forbid coverage.
The Pros and Cons of Covering Medical Marijuana Under Workers’ Compensation
Aside from the first issue, namely that federal law remains opposed to marijuana for any use, Workers’ Compensation insurers face numerous other issues related to providing or denying coverage.
The Pennsylvania Act provides, in Section 103, 17 ailments which qualify for medical marijuana. Of these, there are three which may be involved in a Workers’ Compensation claim. These are PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), intractable seizures, and severe chronic pain.
If one considers that insurers are permitted to cover medical marijuana under state law, but not under federal law, it is difficult to determine how such rules will apply. A company may fear reprisal from federal authorities and reject all claims. Another Workers’ Compensation insurance company may think in terms of costs. If so, there is the potential that an insurer may cover these items under their policy.
For instance, although the cost of current treatments for PTSD and seizures will be largely unaffected by the addition of medical marijuana, treating severe chronic pain is different. Current treatments involve the use of expensive and highly addictive opioids. Medical marijuana treatments may reduce costs, eliminate the problems associated with later addiction, and provide financial incentives to Workers’ Compensation carriers.
If this happens, some may choose to cover medical marijuana in the case of severe chronic pain but not the other conditions. Others may cover all conditions. This disparity will no doubt lead to litigation.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Jeffrey S. Gross Helps Medical Marijuana WorkersThese issues facing the Commonwealth, employees, and employers are not easy, but the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Jeffrey S. Gross will be happy to help injured workers in any way we can. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call now 267-589-0090 or 215-512-1500.