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July 27, 2016 // News

breakingnewsDoes Marijuana Save Medicare Drug Costs?

Critics be warned; marijuana may help put Medicare back in the black. In 2013, the first year that marijuana became legal in 17 states, the number of Medicare prescriptions for certain drugs dropped and there was also a reduction in Part D spending.  A recent study published in Health Affairs studied data from 2010 to 2013 to find out if marijuana legalization might reduce the cost of public health care and whether clinical practices would change as a result of the legalization.

Researchers concluded that in the states where marijuana is legal or available for medical use, drug prescriptions dropped for conditions such as pain, depression, sleep disorders, and anxiety. Although it doesn’t come with the fatality issues typical of opioid drugs, doctors caution that marijuana use is not without risk. Dosage remains a concern, as marijuana is not manufactured in dosages. For instance, pain medication is prescribed using dosages based on a person’s pain level, as well as their weight, age, and sex. Not so for medical marijuana, which is often smoked.

Insurance plans do not cover marijuana, which could cost patients several hundred dollars monthly, and doctors don’t actually prescribe it. Instead, doctors provide a written note that allows the patient to pick up marijuana at a dispensary. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is considering a change in how they classify marijuana, currently a Schedule I drug. If a change is made to re-classify it as a Schedule II drug, insurance would most likely cover the cost of the prescription and the drug would be easier for doctors to prescribe.

As of July 2016, 25 states and Washington D.C. has laws on their books that allow for the use of medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes.  This November, Missouri and Florida will vote on the issue.  Separate studies are also being conducted on marijuana’s effect on Medicaid costs.

Obamacare Rate Hike in California

California’s Covered California exchange recently announced a rate hike jump of more than 13% for 2017. Over the past two years the state had avoided double-digit rate increases seen in other states that are being blamed on rising health care costs. The expiration of two federal programs that insurers turn to for help with their most expensive claims is another reason carriers are seeking more rate. The only way Californians can reduce the increase is if they choose a cheaper plan this year, although the lowest cost silver plans are expected to see a minimum of an 8% increase.

Now there are 7

Of the 23 original co-ops formed as a result of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, only 7 are left standing. Illinois Obamacare CO-OP Land of Lincoln Health announced it would close down leaving almost 50,000 beneficiaries who will be forced to find new coverage options.  The failure of these CO-Ops have left taxpayers footing the $1.7billion. Thirteen of the state CO-Ops have closed since September of 2015, and the status of the remaining 7 are uncertain.

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