A New Mexico hashish firm and a gaggle of six medical marijuana sufferers have filed a class-action lawsuit that seeks insurance coverage protection for medicinal hashish. The authorized motion was filed on Friday in Albuquerque state district court docket, with the plaintiffs arguing that medical hashish must be lined as a result of it’s a legitimate behavioral well being service.
The plaintiffs within the go well with are New Mexico High Organics-Extremely Well being and 6 medical hashish sufferers together with state Sen. Jacob Candelaria. Paperwork filed within the case observe that Candelaria has been a medical hashish affected person since 2019, when his doctor really helpful that he use medicinal hashish to deal with post-traumatic stress dysfunction after antidepressants failed to supply reduction. Candelaria pays between $500 and $1,000 per 30 days out of pocket for his remedy as a result of his insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Defend of New Mexico, fails to cowl medical hashish for its clients, in response to the lawsuit.
With the authorized motion, the plaintiffs within the case are searching for “restoration for themselves, and for each different equally located behavioral or psychological well being affected person unlawfully subjected to paying for the whole value of medically crucial hashish, in violation of state regulation.”
The lawsuit names Blue Cross and Blue Defend of New Mexico, True Well being New Mexico, Cigna Well being and Life Insurance coverage Co., Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, Presbyterian Well being Plan, Presbyterian Insurance coverage Co. and Western Sky Neighborhood Care as defendants within the authorized motion. The lawsuit relies on laws handed final yr, Senate Invoice 317, which requires insurers to cowl 100% of the prices for behavioral well being companies, together with therapies prescribed for behavioral well being situations. The measure was handed in April 2021 and went into impact on January 1 of this yr.
“The thought of medical health insurance plans paying for medical hashish could appear to be an inconceivable dream, however all of the foundational components have already fallen into place,” Extremely Well being president and CEO Duke Rodriguez said in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal on Monday. “Revolutionizing behavioral well being care in New Mexico will take just a few small steps, slightly than an enormous leap.”
February Letter Sought Protection for Medical Hashish in New Mexico
In February, Extremely Well being despatched a letter to insurers and the Workplace of the Superintendent of Insurance coverage searching for protection for medical hashish really helpful to deal with behavioral well being situations. The letter included knowledge supplied by the New Mexico Division of Well being in April that signifies of the 134,307 sufferers enrolled within the state medical hashish program, 73,000 have been recognized with PTSD.
“Extremely Well being acknowledges that the concept of well being insurers paying for medical hashish could seem novel at first blush,” the company wrote in its letter to Presbyterian Healthcare Companies.
“Nevertheless,” the letter continues, “it’s really a rational, affordable notion when thought of in gentle of different New Mexico regulation. New Mexico already requires employees compensation insurers to pay for medical hashish, and New Mexico already treats medical hashish the identical as standard prescription drugs. The truth that well being insurers ought to—and can—pay for medical hashish will not be revolutionary at this level. It’s the subsequent logical step, and it’s a small step, not an enormous leap.”
True Well being New Mexico and Blue Cross and Blue Defend of New Mexico declined to touch upon the case, in response to media stories. Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, Western Sky Neighborhood Care and Cigna didn’t instantly reply to requests for commentary. Presbyterian Well being Plan and Presbyterian Insurance coverage Co., that are overseen by the identical administration staff, additionally declined to touch upon the case however issued a press release on the businesses’ insurance policies.
“Presbyterian Well being Plan is dedicated to making sure that New Mexicans can entry the behavioral well being companies they want,” spokeswoman Melanie Mozes stated. “We’ve got not but been served with the lawsuit and can reserve remark for the suitable venue.”
Rodriquez stated that the lawsuit was filed after the insurers and state regulators failed to reply to the letter despatched in February. He additionally famous that different sufferers who’ve been impacted by the insurers’ failure to cowl medical hashish prescribed as a behavioral well being remedy are welcome to affix the authorized motion.
“There will probably be extra sufferers recognized who’ve been harmed by insurers not lawfully abiding to the statutory responsibility of eliminating any value sharing associated to behavioral well being companies,” Rodriguez stated. “Insurers haven’t acted in good religion.”
In an interview, Candelaria stated that medical hashish has helped him address PTSD and positively affected his life. He added that he joined the authorized motion to assist all “New Mexicans who’re struggling to pay for his or her well being care.”
“Senate Invoice 317 was transformational,” Candelaria stated. “This go well with, you understand, it turns into crucial to really make that transformation occur.”