New York State just made a major move towards having medical marijuana covered by health insurance. A bill requiring health insurance companies to cover medical cannabis has advanced in the New York State Assembly.

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The Assembly Health Committee passed Bill A4713 in an 18-7 vote on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. The legislation is sponsored by Democrat Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. The bill will now head to the Ways & Means Committee. Assembly Bill A04713 seeks to amend,

Public Health Law § 3368 to deem medical marijuana a "prescription drug," "covered drug," or "health care service" as necessary to authorize coverage under the Medicaid, Child. Health Plus, Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC), Essential Plan programs, workers compensation, and clarify that it may be covered as a prescription drug under commercial insurance coverage.

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Will New York State Lawmakers Make Health Insurance Cover Cannabis?

A similar version of the bill is currently in the New York State Senate. Senate Bill S2568, which is sponsored by Democrat Senator Jeremy A. Cooney who represents the 56th District, is currently in the Senate Committee Health Committee. The Senate Bill says that medical marijuana may be more cost-effective for patience than other medicines that are currently covered by their health insurance.

For thousands of patients, medical marijuana is a safer and more effective medication than other drugs, especially opioids. While it can be prohibitively expensive for many patients, especially in the absence of insurance coverage, it may often be less expensive than what their insurance coverage pays for other medications. Cost is the primary barrier to patient access in New York's medical marijuana program.

This is not the first bill aiming to make medical marijuana a prescription covered by health insurance. In the Senate and Assembly, versions of the bill were previously introduced during legislative the 2017-2018, 2019-2020, and 2021-2022 sessions.

If it becomes law, it will take effect on April 1 (the first April 1 after it is passed).

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