Compliance

Insurers Contend Medical Marijuana Should not get Workers’ Comp Funding

By Roberto Ceniceros

Oct. 6, 2011

Michigan’s insurance industry backs a proposed law that would prohibit the workers compensation system from funding claims for medical marijuana, according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

A bill already moving through the state Legislature would prohibit auto insurers from paying for medical marijuana as part of medical claims resulting from accidents, which some car insurers have already done because of uncertainty over requirements under Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

Last week, S.B. 321—the legislation that would prohibit auto insurers from funding claims for medical marijuana—was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to go before the full state Senate, an Insurance Institute of Michigan spokeswoman said.

Auto insurers want the clarification because Michigan is the only state in the nation that holds them responsible for unlimited lifetime medical benefits, the spokeswoman said.

That means they could be on the hook for a lifetime of medical marijuana payments.

The insurance industry wanted language banning workers’ compensation insurers from paying for medical marijuana to be included in the auto bill, the spokeswoman said.

But now a separate workers’ compensation bill is expected to be introduced this session as part of an overall effort to clarify requirements under Michigan’s medical marijuana law, the spokeswoman added.

“I know from conversations with some of our workers’ comp carriers it is an issue they would like to see us pursue statutorily, so it is on their behalf that we are doing that,” said

Peter Kuhmnuench, the Insurance Institute of Michigan’s executive director.

Kuhmnuench said he thinks the bill for auto insurers stands a good chance of adoption because the Judiciary Committee unanimously passed it last week. Additionally, a key backer of the medical marijuana ballot proposal made it clear that they did not want insurers to be required to pay for the drug, he added.

“We think it looks pretty good at this point in time” for the legislation clarifying that auto insurers do not have to fund medical marijuana, he said. “We hope the same thing for the work comp carve-out because we really think largely its kind of a reaffirmation of the original intent of ballot initiative.”

Michigan already prohibits commercial health insurers from paying for medical marijuana.

Filed by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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Roberto Ceniceros writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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