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Insurer not required to pay for medical marijuana (US)

04 March 2021 Patrick Bracher, Norton Rose Fulbright
Patrick Bracher, Norton Rose Fulbright

Patrick Bracher, Norton Rose Fulbright

The Massachusetts Appeals Court refused to order an insurance company to pay for the medical marijuana expenses to treat the claimant’s pain stemming from a work-related injury he sustained in 2014. The US situation is curious in that medical marijuana is allowed in some states but is still unlawful under federal law. The Massachusetts law legalising medical pot was carefully drafted within the regulatory environment and contains specific provisions designed to avoid conflicts with federal law.

The insurers could not be expected to pay for medical pot when they ran the risk of being in breach of federal law.  The provisions in the state law prevent a health insurance provider or government agency from being ordered to reimburse a claimant for medical marijuana expenses.

US law is not consistent in this regard and some states have ordered insurers to pay.  An insurance trade industry group has argued that a finding in favour of such expenses could destabilise workers compensation and that there is not enough evidence of marijuana’s medical benefits.  The real concern seems to be that insurers will end up paying for many people’s recreational drugs.

[Delano v Partners Healthcare System Inc Massachusetts Appeals Court case number 2020-P-0192]

First published by: Financial Institutions Legal Snapshot

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