The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been steadily gaining momentum for years, prompting many people to wonder if it may be covered by Medicaid.
But marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even when used for medicinal purposes. Therefore, it is not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or any other federally-funded programs.
However, there are two cannabis-related products that are covered by Medicaid.
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Medicaid may provide coverage for dronabinol, which is made up of synthetic THC and is used to treat nausea and vomiting and increase appetites in patients who have AIDS or are undergoing cancer treatments. Dronabinol is approved by the FDA, and its brand names are Marinol and Syndros.
Medicaid may also provide coverage for Epidiolex, which is an FDA-approved non-synthetic cannabis treatment to prevent seizures in people with epilepsy.
The same rules that apply to Medicaid’s coverage of medicinal marijuana or CBD oil also apply to Medicare. While CBD oil is technically legal at the federal level, it remains unapproved by the FDA. And Medicare and Medicaid will not cover any medications that are not FDA approved. Therefore, CBD oil is not covered by either program.
However, dronabinol and Epidiolex are both covered by Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) and Medicare Part D. Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans are private insurance plans. Most Medicare Advantage plans also cover prescription drugs, and some Part D and Medicare Advantage plans may cover some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and supplies.
Medicinal marijuana has been shown effective at treating:
AIDS and cancer patients often suffer from many of these symptoms, and many turn to medicinal marijuana for relief.
While still illegal at the federal level, medical marijuana is legal in some form in 36 states as well as the District of Columbia in 2021. Medical marijuana is not legal in the following states:
In states where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes only, you will need to obtain a medical marijuana card. A medical marijuana card can cost between $50 and $200 and may require annual renewal fees.
A medical marijuana card may only be given by a doctor who recommends marijuana for treatment of your health condition. Most marijuana cards are registered with the state government, and you may need to meet with your doctor every year in order to renew your card. While neither Medicare nor Medicaid will cover the cost of your marijuana card, the office visit itself to meet with your doctor may be covered.
Doctors may not directly prescribe cannabis products directly. They may only recommend them for use.
The cost of medical marijuana varies widely by product and location. Edible medical marijuana products can cost as little as a few dollars while concentrated forms of oils and waxes can be as much as $60 per gram.
While Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug plans don’t cover medical marijuana, some plans may cover other cannabinoids and similar treatments, depending on the plan.
To compare plans that are available where you live – including the drugs that they cover – you can view plan details online or call to speak with a licensed insurance agent.
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Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.
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