Series of Articles by NCCI Examines Marijuana and the Workers’ Comp System

August 23, 2017

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has released the first of a five-part series on its website examining the issues surrounding the growing impact of legalizing marijuana on workers’ compensation stakeholders. The first article in the series, The Marijuana Conversation: Questions Workers Compensation Insurers Are Asking, focuses on the insurance carrier perspective.

“As a trusted source in workers’ compensation, part of our mission is to provide timely information that helps our industry stay ‘real-time relevant,'” said NCCI President and CEO Bill Donnell. “This series takes a look into the questions being raised as more states legalize marijuana—an issue shaping our industry landscape.”

The first article in NCCI’s Marijuana Conversation series is aimed at exploring the issues surrounding the drug’s impact on workers’ compensation insurers. Three key questions are addressed:

How does the federal Schedule I drug status of marijuana impact workers’ compensation?

According to the article, while marijuana is still illegal at the federal level the government has not enforced the law in states where marijuana has been legalized.

The disconnect between state and federal laws has proven to be confusing for insurers trying to understand the implications of providing reimbursement for medical marijuana. The article also noted that “marijuana cannot be assigned a National Drug Code due to its Schedule I status; therefore, there is no standardized reimbursement rate for the drug.”

Do states require workers’ compensation insurers to reimburse/pay for medical marijuana?

Five states – Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Mexico – have found that medical marijuana treatment should be reimbursed under workers’ compensation benefits. While many states preclude health insurers from reimbursing costs associated with medical marijuana, few preclude workers’ comp carriers from paying for medical marijuana treatment. According to the article, only Florida and North Dakota passed laws stating medical marijuana is not reimbursable under workers’ compensation benefits.

Is medical marijuana a viable alternative to opioids for pain management, better claim outcomes, and getting employees back to work sooner?

Because of federal law, research of marijuana is strictly controlled; thus, additional studies are still needed to determine if medical marijuana is a reasonable alternative for treating injured workers.

Future articles in the series will examine questions employers, employees, regulators and legislators have concerning the impact of medical marijuana.

Source: NCCI

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