In states with legal medical cannabis, Medicare has been seeing a steep drop in prescription drugs that help control conditions like anxiety, depression, pain and insomnia. So steep in fact, Medicare has already saved over $165 million, and as legalization spreads, the savings grow and grow. We all know, if there’s anything that motivates a government to reform laws, it’s the possibility of additional revenue.
Blooming and booming
It’s no secret – big pharmaceutical companies continue to lobby to keep cannabis illegal and listed as a Schedule 1 drug. States that have already adopted medical cannabis laws are finding out why. Now that more than half the country has some type of cannabis program, Medicare is noticing an increased decline is certain types of prescription drugs.
Cannabis is commonly prescribed to treat conditions like anxiety, depression, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma and a whole host of other ailments. So, it comes as no surprise to discover, drugs like Xanax, Vicodin and Oxycontin are being prescribed less and less to patients with these debilitating, life-altering illnesses.
Scientists are positive the decline is due to medical cannabis because they’re not seeing the same downward trend with drugs that control things like low blood pressure, a condition not treated with cannabis.
Aside from the health benefits these patients are receiving by not being on these dependency-forming drugs, medical cannabis has opened the door to millions of dollars in savings for federally-funded Medicare programs. Researchers estimated, if medical cannabis were available across the nation, the total savings would be somewhere near $470 million annual.
Reaching nation-wide legalization
The first step in national legalization of cannabis is removing it from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. Due to the fact that cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no medicinal value in the eyes of the federal government, doctors are limited in their power to prescribe freely, even in states with legalization.
Luckily, federal agencies are looking at ways to de-schedule cannabis so it can become more readily available for patients, providing physicians with more options and ways to help their struggling patients.
As the United States continues to suffer from the worst Opioid epidemic we’ve ever seen, lawmakers are struggling to find a way to hinder the prescription of these types of pain-controlling drugs. Opioids are highly addictive and often cause dependency, which can lead to heroin use, a drug that is killing users at an astounding rate.
With the legalization of medical cannabis, doctors are able to prescribe a completely non-addictive drug for conditions otherwise treated with pain pills.
While cannabis remains federally illegal, it is not covered under most health insurance programs, leaving patients to pay out-of-pocket for their medication. This is the most likely reason Medicare is seeing a decline in patient expenses.
If and when cannabis is de-scheduled or made federally legal, there’s a chance insurance companies would be expected to cover, at least in part, medical cannabis costs. Cannabis comes at an extremely lower price than many of these big-pharm pills, so while the savings might not be as great, there will still be savings.
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