“High” Impact for Medical Marijuana on Comp May be Coming

marijuanaMarijuana has been legalized in nearly 24 states already and workers’ comp payers should begin to prepare for injured workers looking to seek out the drug on comp benefits.  NCCI rates medical marijuana as one of the top issues to be aware of moving into 2014, they are also stating that there has already been an increase in the number of bills submitted to be paid for marijuana.

There is no approval from the FDA on the uses for medical marijuana, which should be enough for WC payers to reject paying for the drug under comp benefits.  There are some that think that even federal law will not stop claims from being submitted for comp. The problem arises when injured workers become impaired after using marijuana, which can cause delays in their return to work. That will only prolong their claim, causing comp costs to increase.

On top of the states that have legalized marijuana for medical uses there have been a few places including Colorado, Washington, and the city of Portland that have passed laws that allow marijuana to be used for recreational purposes. This can put workers in harms way while doing their jobs-causing them to get injured and work comp claims to rise, ultimately costing payers more money.

Mark Walls – SVP  and market research leader at Marsh thinks that because marijuana as not been approved as viable treatment for any injuries that we should not see a influx of claims for medical marijuana in comp.  He also pointed out that several states have implemented laws prohibiting work comp insurers from paying for medical marijuana, these include; Colorado, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Vermont.

Most PBM’s have marijuana excluded from their  formulary, however there is still a chance that it could be paid for if there is an adjuster that passes it through since they may have a very lax view on the drug as a whole.  Since many people who receive the drug do so through a retail setting or directly through the doctor there is not always a paper trail for possible injured workers to be using the drug.

At the end of the day many people know what can happen when you use marijuana, and the fact of the matter is that this should not be involved in workers compensation.  It will most likely cause claims to remain open longer, driving up costs and preventing the injured worker from returning to work.  On the flip side of that, if you have workers who are using the drug while at work even if it is prescribed to them, that will most likely put them in a greater position to injure themselves and end up back on comp again driving up costs.  When all is said and done adjuster and insurers should be denying any and all claims for medical marijuana and make sure it is kept out of comp.  Comp is already confusing and complicated as it is, lets not make is worse.

Source:  Business Insurance

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