Posted on

will insurance cover cbd oil

Does Insurance Cover CBD Oil?

Ah, insurance–the aspect of adult life that can both break our backs and help us fix them. Insurance can, at times, seem like an overwhelming, convoluted mess when you’re simply trying to find security in your health. Depending on the insurance you’re covered by and your familiarity with it, you’ll know that some things are taken care of while others are left outstanding (and fall to your responsibility).

CBD oil is one of them. CBD oil, since its emergence as a separate entity than the psychoactive THC of the cannabis plant, seems to be limitless. There is a growing laundry list of health benefits it contributes to and it’s moving its way into recreational popularity as well.

Some prefer to use it as an oil, some prefer to vape it, others like to eat it in candy. Regardless of your preferred consumption, at base-level CBD is an extracted ingredient that, at its most basic, is used medicinally. But does insurance cover CBD oil?

Using CBD as Medicine

The movement to legalize marijuana was just the tipping point. It is still federally classified as a Schedule I drug, but considering more than half of the country has moved to be on board with using it medicinally, it’s likely to change. As of 2018, hemp is legal again in the United States thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp is known for many healing qualities, and it’s teeming with CBD and has only trace amounts of THC.

Cannabis was criminalized due to a nation in fearful hysterics, aka Reefer Madness, and allowed for cigarettes and booze to take over the scene. Research into the plant became scant, and tobacco reigned supreme.

Thanks to the Father of Marijuana, we now know that the dangers associated with cannabis are a far cry from those of nicotine-packed cigarettes. To go a step further, his research shed light on the fact that THC is different than CBD. Even people who came to love cannabis for its euphoric high have found that their lives can be just as happy and healthy with a little CBD instead.

A quick YouTube search turns up hundreds of accounts of miraculous results from people using CBD for a range of disabilities and illnesses. In some cases, CBD appears to calm the shaking hands of people living with Parkinson’s Disease. Others find that applying it directly to the skin has impressive effects against arthritis.

Just as CBD has been able to assist the elderly community in dealing with the aches and pains associated with aging, the younger generation is also bearing witness to its power. The first-ever FDA-approved drug was created in response to Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet’s Syndrome, childhood diseases associated with frequent, severe seizures. Working along with the endocannabinoid system, the CBD is able to relax the receptors in the brain that lead to seizures and has effectively plummeted their daily severity and frequency. This drug can be used in children as young as 2 years old.

Aside from the severe debilitating diseases that CBD works to improve, it’s become popular across the board, bridging all age gaps for its relaxation effects. People who suffer from anxiety and depression are looking increasingly to CBD to help calm nervous tension. Some use it as a sleep aid. Mothers have been trying CBD in place of pharmaceutical medicine for behavioral issues like ADHD. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder people are asking, “Does insurance cover CBD oil?”

Does Insurance Cover CBD Oil?

Taking the high out of cannabis has given the plant an attractive makeover, and the medicinal community is gradually coming to terms with the nice new kid on the block. But does insurance cover CBD oil?

Cannabis and all cannabis-related products are still listed on the pesky list of Schedule I drugs, along with substances like heroin, ecstasy, and meth. While the others may wreak havoc and make a mess of things, cannabis just wants everyone to get along and to be able to enjoy life. With the 2018 Farm Bill’s legalization of hemp, the government is beginning to recognize the plant’s benefits and lack of harmful qualities.

The medical community is also beginning to recognize CBD’s benefits. But before insurance starts paying for it, the medical and insurance industry need to figure out how to make money from it. Big pharma has reigned supreme for far too long just to be put in the back seat by the cool new guy.

CBD oil can be found in some drug stores, but it will cost you out of pocket. Depending on who your doctor is, you’re unlikely to get prescribed CBD in the US anytime soon. If they’re not prescribing it, insurance isn’t covering it. Unfortunately, that’s the answer right now to the question, “does insurance cover CBD oil?”

Again, to take note from our proverbial nice new guy on the block, things are looking up. Already the UK has seen the opportunity for doctor-prescribed cannabis. Landmark moments like these are inspiring for Western culture and the rise of cannabis from the ashes of Reefer Madness seems impending.

Your doctor may be on board for you to use CBD oil. Depending on your level of need, they may even offer some suggestions for a method, timing, or dosage. Doctors in legal states can also write a certificate for you to purchase medical marijuana, including high CBD strains. As of right now that’s as far as the healthcare system has dipped into sponsoring CBD oil.

Insurance won’t cover your CBD oil purchase, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth the personal investment. All things considered, CBD can be somewhat reasonably priced, especially compared to many pharmaceutical drugs, even after insurance covers their portion.

CBD oil has been heralded for its many benefits. But it is rather pricey. Does insurance cover CBD oil? We answer this question (and more) in this article.

Does Health Insurance Cover CBD Oil?

Getting CBD from health insurance.

CBD is a blurry line that insurance companies are reluctant to cross. Image Credit: By alexskopje on Shutterstock

Though most people know that no health insurance plan will cover medical marijuana, many still have questions on whether such plans might cover CBD oil and CBD products. They don’t induce a high, after all, and since the federal government legalized hemp-derived CBD in the 2018 Farm Bill, it seems counter-intuitive to most that health insurance companies would be averse to a product that is both legal and wildly popular.

Yet as with many cannabis-related matters, old attitudes are easy to shift but difficult to eradicate completely, and the association of CBD with the 20th century’s most demonized plant has created a blurry line that insurance companies are reluctant to cross. It also doesn’t help that marijuana-derived CBD, which many say is more effective than the hemp-derived variety, is still a Schedule I controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

So, is CBD oil (of any kind) covered by insurance companies (of any type) in the United States? Across the board, the answer is no, another ramification of the uneven progress of American cannabis reform.

Unfortunately, CBD is also quite expensive, so people will likely continue to ask this question until the answer becomes yes.

Why Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover CBD Oil

One of the main challenges that prevents CBD from being covered under insurance policies is the hostility of powerful government agencies to any cannabis-related product — a sentiment that insurance companies have noticed and respected.

In its 2001 “Notice of denial of petition to reschedule marijuana,” the DEA emphasized that its main objection to the rescheduling of cannabis and its derivatives was not because of their potential for abuse, but rather for their lack of accepted use in medical treatment:

“If it is undisputed that such drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and it is further undisputed that the drug has at least some potential for abuse sufficient to warrant control under the Controlled Substances Act, the drug must remain in Schedule I.”

This has remained a popular view among many federal authorities. In 2018, when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was asked about medical marijuana as a pain relief alternative to opioids, he responded by saying there is “no such thing as medical marijuana.”

Even agencies with a more open stance on CBD, like the FDA, are helping to block insurance companies from covering it — with one notable exception, an anti-seizure medication called Epidiolex. Costing around $32,500 out of pocket for a year’s treatment, it was approved by the FDA in 2018, subsequently downgraded by the DEA to a Schedule 5 substance (the same non-restrictive category as prescription cough syrup), and is now covered without exception by insurers. However, it’s also blocking other CBD-derived medications from getting the same treatment, since its approval by the FDA means that any drug containing CBD would have to go through the same arduous, expensive process. So far, no other medication has been up for the challenge.

And without FDA approval, insurance companies won’t approve of CBD, either. When the public relations manager of Humana, one of the country’s five largest insurers, told VICE why the company did not insure medical marijuana, he could just as easily have been talking about CBD. “As of right now, there is no FDA-approved marijuana product, and we therefore do not currently offer a prescription drug benefit for medical marijuana,” he said. “If there were to be an FDA-approved medical marijuana product in the future, it may be covered depending upon the terms of the individual member’s drug coverage.”

What Would Have to Change for Insurers to Cover CBD Oil?

Barring an unexpected act of Congress, there are two potential ways in which CBD oil (or at least certain types of it) could be covered under health insurance plans, and neither of them are likely to be especially fast.

The first, and most obvious, is standard FDA regulation. On May 31, the FDA held a public hearing on issues around CBD’s regulation, such as the medical conditions it has shown effectiveness in treating and its side effects. A working group that was assigned to analyze the problem recently published a statement paper called “FDA is Committed to Sound, Science-based Policy on CBD,” which clearly spells out the agency’s stance

“If a product is being marketed as a drug — meaning, for example, that it’s intended to have a therapeutic effect such as treating a disease — then it’s regulated as a drug, and it generally cannot be sold without FDA approval.”

FDA approval is a long and rigorous process, meaning it could take years for CBD-based drugs to reach the market even if the FDA changes its stance. In the meantime, standard CBD oil — the kind found in pharmacies, supermarkets, and medical cannabis dispensaries around the country — would still not be covered.

However, elsewhere in the paper, CBD users are given the possibility of an alternative: “The Agency is committed to science-based decision making when it comes to CBD, while also taking steps to consider if there are appropriate regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of CBD, outside of the drug setting.”

For the time being, the best (and only) bet for subsidized CBD oil may come from the companies that produce it, some of which will give Medicaid card holders a 20 percent discount out of their own pocket.

No — there's not a single insurance company in America that covers CBD oil. Here's why.