Thirty-six states have legalized medical cannabis, yet patients still find it difficult to use their insurance to cover the cost of their medicine. Now, New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill that requires workers’ compensation and personal injury protection (PIP) insurance plans to cover medical cannabis. To qualify, patients would need to register with the state’s medical cannabis program.
New Jersey’s Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced Bill A1708 last October with the support of Assembly members John Burzichelli (D), Herb Conaway (D), and Joann Downey (D).
“Many workers’ compensation insurance companies and PIPs are still hesitant to cover medical cannabis or have an outright policy of denying it,” the members said. “People injured and receiving coverage through PIP or worker’s comp can come away from a doctor’s appointment with a prescription for medical [cannabis]; however, it is not definite that their healthcare plan will cover it or reimburse them for the costs.”
Insurers are reportedly wary of the bill because cannabis is still federally illegal. Although the government has largely left state cannabis markets alone, if an insurance company pays for medical cannabis, the act could potentially violate federal law.
According to Alison Cooper, vice president for state affairs of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, “The biggest concern that we have of course is that it puts insurers in a very difficult position… We do believe that it would be better to hold off on this proposal until Congress resolves the conflicts between federal and state law.”
There’s state precedent for the bill. In January 2020, the New Jersey Appeals Court determined that a construction company must pay medical cannabis bills after a worker was injured during a workplace accident. The ruling was considered a win for cannabis advocates.
The next step for Bill A1708 is to be considered by the full Assembly and the state Senate.