If you are one of the 22,000 people in New Jersey who has been authorized to use medical marijuana to manage your pain, then this issue is bound to cause you some worry when you’re in the middle of a workman’s comp claim.
As it happens, this is an issue that’s been getting some resolution recently.
A Recent Case
In the 2018 case McNeary v. Freehold Township the Honorable Judge Lionel Simon ordered Mr. McNeary’s workman’s comp insurance company to cover the cost of his medical marijuana use so long as a doctor was willing to continue to provide evidence of his need for it.
In his ruling, Simon said that it was clear to him that the legislative intent of federal drug laws is to “curtail the use and distribution of illicit narcotics for the purposes of the overall general health.” He said he did not believe the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Act was in conflict with that goal, and was far more concerned about the possibility that Mr. McNeary would have to switch to opioids to manage his pain if he was denied reimbursement for the marijuana.
He pointed out it would be cheaper for the insurance company to pay that claim, too, though in this case the insurance company’s concern seemed to be less about the amount paid and more about whether they’d accrue liability in the face of Federal law which continues to criminalize marijuana use.
In September of 2018 Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli introduced A.B. 4505, a bill which would force automobile companies to include medical marijuana in their PIP coverage, and workman’s comp to include it in their medical coverage, so long as “the employee is a qualifying patient authorized for medical marijuana pursuant to the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.”
The bill does stipulate the patient must try at least one other medication or treatment, and that treatment must be found to be unsuccessful in treating the condition, before medical marijuana must be covered.
As of right now the bill is with the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. It is one of a great many medical marijuana bills currently under consideration.
Neither the court case nor the bill address questions about cost or dose. They also don’t say anything about monitoring the patient’s use of medical marijuana, save for the stipulations already outlined.
Some insurers are having a hard time with this problem already, and are grappling with the question of how to make it work. But not all of them are opposed either: medical marijuana has begun to take center stage as the medical world looks for an alternative to opioids.
What this Means to You
It means if you are already on medical marijuana for a workman’s comp-covered condition that a doctor has stated is medically necessary, you’ve got a good chance of getting it covered. If workman’s comp has been refusing to pay for it you now have some grounds on which to change that.
Of course, you won’t be able to do that alone. In this, as with every other workman’s comp issue, the help and support of an experienced attorney is the key to getting the outcome you want. Contact the Law Offices of Albert J. Talone to schedule a consultation today.