Medical marijuana and workers’ comp. Seriously?

by Joseph Paduda

First Posted at Managed Care Matters on 01/17/2013

Joe Paduda, Principal, Health Strategy Associate

I was chatting with Jennifer Wolf-Horesjh, Executive Director of IAIABC, this morning when the conversation turned to medical marijuana in workers comp.  I have no idea how we ended up there, but Jennifer is a great conversationalist and very well informed about everything work comp-related, so she’s on top of the issue (and pretty much everything else).

As luck would have it, IAIABC just completed a survey of states’ positions on work comp and medical marijuana.  A couple states have specifically banned the use of medical marijuana in worker’s comp treatment (Montana and Vermont), while others have administrative restrictions/requirements in place. Others allow it.  (Jennifer also told me about a recentcourt case wherein an insurer was required to pay for the marijuana growing equipment used by a claimant; if anyone has a record of that send it over and I’ll update the post. )

So, here’s the deal.  What logic would one use to approve the use of medical marijuana in workers’ comp?  There’s very little evidence that it is beneficial for most conditions for most people, although some anecdotal evidence that it works for a few. But just because a (very) few find relief from cannabis does not make it a viable medication – and one employers should be paying for – without careful scrutiny and ample evidence that it works for a specific claimant.

Alas, logic and workers’ comp aren’t often used in the same paragraph, so perhaps this is just another indication of how screwed up WC is.  As if we needed one.

There’s an excellent white paper on the topic from PBM myMatrixx as well as a webinar for your edification.  PMSI’s Jay Krueger has also authored a paper on the subject, andWorkCompInsider was an early reporter on the subject as well.  Oh, and in case you think you’ve heard it all, read Jon Coppelman’s piece on an idiot who a) got stoned and b) then went to feed bears in an animal park.

Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the founder and host of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.