Medical marijuana Medicare coverage has become a popular topic among seniors. A recent survey reports that two-thirds of Medicare recipients think the program should cover the cost of medical marijuana, while 21 percent report they already use cannabis to treat a wide variety of conditions.
With marijuana still illegal at the federal level, the chances of Medicare – a federal healthcare program – covering the cost of marijuana is impossible without federal officials changing the law or granting an exemption. While the government has taken many steps away from a past that saw authorities demonize cannabis, a change in the federal law that makes cannabis illegal remains elusive.
Started in 1965, Medicare is a government national health insurance program. Although there are some exceptions, the government designed to program for those 65 years old and older. While the program doesn’t pay for everything, it’s an important way for people to contain healthcare costs as they age.
Reasons Why Medicare Recipients Use Medical Marijuana
The survey, conducted by the website Medicare Plans, included 1,250 Medicare recipients asked for their opinions in April 2022. “Our survey found that seniors are embracing medical cannabis as a treatment for a variety of conditions, and are largely in favor of expanding Medicare coverage to include medical marijuana,” the website wrote.
The survey found that Medicare recipients used medical marijuana most frequently to treat chronic pain, anxiety and depression. Those who use cannabis and CBD frequently mention all three areas, with pain management the most often cited.
The most frequent conditions seniors listed as using cannabis to treat are:
- Chronic pain
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chron’s disease
- Eating disorder
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Cancer treatment side effects
- Multiple sclerosis
Overall, 21 percent of seniors in the Medicare system reported using medical marijuana. Another 23 percent reported they had tried medical marijuana at some point in the past.
Support Strong for Medical Marijuana Medicare Coverage
The survey also found that 66 percent of all Medicare recipients either “strongly agree” or “agree” that Medicare should cover the cost of medical marijuana. Somewhat surprisingly, a large percentage of those who use medical marijuana oppose Medicare coverage.
However, the report found a reason that is the case. Of those who use medical marijuana but oppose Medicare covering it, 38 percent worry that medical marijuana costs will increase if Medicare elects to cover the cost.
Overall, 59 percent of those who support medical marijuana Medicare coverage do so because they say it offers an effective option when other treatments fail. Among those who already use medical marijuana, 48 percent said Medicare should cover the cost because cannabis treats so many different issues, including pain and inflammation, as well as problems with appetite and sleeping.
Others pointed out that medical marijuana is a “natural remedy,” as opposed to a man-made pharmaceutical. Data shows that people will make the switch when they have the chance. For example, studies have found that where legal medical marijuana is available, fewer people use opioids for pain management.