Insurance coverage

New Mexico marijuana company and patients sue over medical cannabis insurance coverage

New Mexico’s largest marijuana company and a coalition of patients have filed a class action lawsuit against seven state health insurance companies, demanding that they cover cannabis costs for eligible patients.

The lawsuit comes months after Ultra Health sent letters to insurers and state agencies, requesting medical marijuana coverage for people with mental and behavioral health issues based on an interpretation of the state law.

Because those beneficiaries have not responded — and inflation is exacerbating the financial problems of qualified patients who are forced to pay out of pocket for cannabis — the company said legal action was necessary. Today, the first such case is in the state’s Second Judicial District Court.

“The idea of ​​health insurance plans paying for medical cannabis may seem like an impossible dream, but all the fundamentals are already in place,” Ultra Health CEO Duke Rodriguez said in a statement Monday. hurry.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, True Health New Mexico and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company are among the defendants in the lawsuit.

“In New Mexico, the cost of a service or medication used to treat a behavioral or mental health disorder must be a covered service without cost sharing,” the lawsuit states. “In other words, a health insurance policy that provides coverage for behavioral or mental health services must pay 100% of the cost of that service.”

That position is largely based on a state law — the Behavioral Health Services Equity Act — that went into effect this year.

The lawsuit further asserts that the insurance companies’ decision not to cover the costs of medical marijuana for eligible patients under the law was made “intentionally and in reckless and willful disregard of the rights of the plaintiffs for whom they are entitled to punitive damages”.

In the letter sent by insurers and state officials in February, the cannabis company leading this class action lawsuit pointed out that if the notion of medical marijuana coverage could be novel, it is “makes it a rational and reasonable notion when considered in light of other new Mexican law.

Ultra Health and the patients involved in the challenge are asking for recognition that medical cannabis is a recognized behavioral and mental health treatment in New Mexico that insurers must cover, and they also want compensation for expenses incurred since January 1, the date the Behavioral Health Act came into effect. .

In 2020, a New Mexico state judge ruled that medical marijuana patients could not be punished for using cannabis while incarcerated.

The United States Supreme Court was asked late last year to settle the emerging dispute over whether employers can be compelled to reimburse workers for the cost of medical cannabis used to treat related injuries. at work. To date, state courts have come to differing conclusions on the issue, a situation that advocates say warrants intervention by the High Court.

Last month, the Justice Department urged the High Court not to take up the case, although part of its reasoning is that Congress appears to be moving towards a solution on its own, while lawmakers are working to end the federal ban.

Read New Mexico court case on medical cannabis coverage rights for patients below:

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Photo elements courtesy of raw pixel and Philip Stefan.

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